Cactus Party

• And Everyone Is Invited, Especially the Bees
Welcome to a small event in time and space: cactus flowers and bees interacting in an urban low-water garden. This section includes: Organ Pipe cactus bloomBees visit cactus flowersPeruvian Apple cactus bloomFlowers Coming and GoingSweet Tasting Cactus ApplesTwin Pipe Organ Cactus Flowers. And now, let us visit the garden in the merry month of May.

Garden on June 1, 2014.  san diego ca,  photo by anders tomlinson,
May 2014 and Two Cactus Are In Bloom
All of the photographs in this section, unless noted, were taken during the month of May. The first cactus flower, on a Peruvian Apple cactus, opened up May 2nd. The big story was that the yard had seen little rain over the past three years. 2013 had eleven days of precipitation totaling 5.57 inches of rain, 50% of normal. Two days had an inch plus of rain and another had .75 inches. Eight days had less than .25 inches. The driest year on record was 2000 – 2001 with less than 3″ of rain. Today, the yard’s dirt, rock, brick and pavers have no drought issues. The two cactus seen with flowers are Pipe Organ cactus.

two pipe organ cactus are in bloom at the same time. san diego. ca.  photos by anders tominson
A Closer Look
Plants are stressing. Despite being hand-watered with retrieved grey water from sinks, and morning coastal condensation, a couple of trees-bushes didn’t make it through the winter. Other plants, including agaves, have slowed growth. In April 2014, the Peruvian Apple cactus were loaded with fifty nobby aeroles, an inch in diameter, which produce flowers. Normally this cactus would have up to ten flowers in a year. The Pipe Organ cactus, seen here, were the first to bloom from its characteristic black fuzzy aeroles.

• Pipe Organ Cactus
pipe organ cactus flowers, 05-2014, san diego, ca.  photos by anders tomlinson
Meet the Pipe Organ Cactus.
The Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) grows in the Sonoran Desert. It native habitats are southeastern Arizona and south of the border in Sonora, Sinola and Baja California, Mexico. Its numbers are increasing in southwestern gardens featuring low-water-usage plants. The cactus above was culled in the late 1980’s from an Escondido, Ca. garden and planted here, along the yard’s western fence. It has grown from one to twenty-nine stems-columns-pipes. Visit To see Bees and Flowers

pipe organ cactus flowers, 05-2014, san diego, ca.  photos by anders tomlinson
These are Grand Flowers, Perfume for the Night
This cactus species begins at ground level with a single stem-column-pipe They like to be in the shade of a tree. From this stem many stems, about six inches wide, will grow vertically as tall as 16 to 26 feet. The tallest stem on this pipe organ cactus is six foot – four inches. A mature Pipe Organ cactus, which can take 150 years, may become a colony of stems reaching 12 feet in width.

To see more images of this Pipe Organ cactus

• Peruvian Apple Cactus
peruvian apple cactus flowers, 05-2014, san diego, ca.  photos by anders tomlinson
This is the Peruvian Apple Cactus Along the Southern Wall
This is the tallest cactus stem, at eight feet, in the garden. The Peruvian Apple cactus, Cereus repandus, can grow as tall as 33 feet. The stems, succulent in nature, store water. The stems swell when they have water and the vertical ribs can clearly be seen when the cactus is low on water. The cactus, above, is low on water, it is struggling with the drought conditions. For the first time in this yard it is going to require watering.

Computer painting by Hilary Scott Wilson.
The World is Interconnected by Interests and Technology
I received an email, an several that followed, from Hilary Scott Wilson that read:
“I am an artist in Sketch Club – a digital drawing club. I would like to make a
sketch of one of your cactus flower photographs… The picture I found when I did
a search for cactus flowers is your Peruvian Apple cactus from a Cactus party you
had a year or two ago.  It’s so beautiful I’d love to draw it!… Now I am honoured
to have my sketch included on your cactus party page!  As I draw quite a lot of flowers
perhaps your visitors would like to know my gallery can be viewed on Instagram under
Hilly indicated she hoped her art would be in the top five, this image
came in second place. Good show! Everyday is a cactus party.

peruvian apple cactus flower with stems, san diego, ca.  photo by anders tomlinson
Three Stages of a Cactus Flower
From left to right we see five different flowers: an open flower, a flower that recently closed, an open flower, a drying out closed-up flower and a flower nearing opening. Welcome to the cactus party.

To see more photos of this Peruvian Apple cactus
There is also portraits of a stem during a two week period

more cactus pags graphic

Organ Pipe cactus bloom

Bees visit cactus flowers

Peruvian Apple cactus bloom

Flowers Coming and Going

Sweet Tasting Cactus Apples

Twin Pipe Organ Cactus Flowers

©2014 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.