Cacti, Succulents, and More...

Aloes, Dead Leaves, and Fire

Aloe ferox flowers, Dogtooth

(photograph = Aloe ferox flowers, Dogtooth) Introduction Aloe is a large genus spread from South Africa and Namibia to Madagascar and on to Saudi Arabia. Some of the species grow 2- or 3-m tall from a single stem. These are tree aloes. The Details A. ferox is a tree aloe found across the southern tip […]

Erythrina herbacea is a Caudat...

Coral bean flowers, Lars Hammar

(Photograph = Coral bean flowers, Lars Hammar) Introduction Bottle plants have enlarged stems or roots, or both. If roots, you can expose the enlarged root-stem junction by removing the earth above the root. This is sort of like exposing the top half of a turnip, but in a woody plant the effect is more permanent and […]

Pitaya, Dragon Fruit

Pitaya flower bud, Shenghung Lin

(Photograph = Pitaya flower bud, Shenghung Lin) Introduction Dragon fruit (pitaya or pitahaya) is a tropical fruit produced by a cactus. It grows in many parts of the world, though it is most commonly grown in Asia. The fruit is for sale in many Asian-food markets. The Details There is a red pitaya and a yellow pitaya, Hylocereus […]

Opuntiophagous Vertebrates

Male baboons, with invasive Opuntia

Introduction What a mouthful-of-a-title. What does it mean? Opuntiophagous is derived from two root words: Opuntia and phagous. We all know what Opuntia means. Phagous (from Greek) means “eating something.” Opuntiophagous means “eating Opuntia.” Vertebrates are anything with a backbone: turtles, lizards, birds, cows, goats, etc. The Details Park Nobel edited a book that was published […]

Copiapoa is from Chile

Copiapoa solaris

(Photograph = Copiapoa solaris) Introduction There are about two dozen Copiapoa species–all from northern Chile and many from the Atacama Desert where rainfall may be be less than an inch per year. Some of the species glean water from coastal fogs that reach far inland and survive with the limited precipitation. The genus is named after […]

Nurse Rocks

Echinocactus polycephalus xeranthemoides, Nancy Hussey

Introduction Sometimes desert seedlings start life under a shrub. The shrub provides protection from too-hot sun, drying wind, and even cold temperatures. These shrubs are nurse plants. But, what about nurse rocks? The Details Some cacti grow in sandy soils–thus Opuntia polyacantha erinaceae near Kingman, Arizona grows in sandy soils. But, many xeric (very dry habitat) […]

Blog Host


My name is Joe Shaw. I live in Maryland. I enjoy writing about plants. I especially enjoy growing and writing about cacti and succulents and their biology.

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