The Cactus Patch
Volume 5       April 2002      Number 4

The Quest for the Crest
by Stephen Cooley

A year ago, in March 2001, Maynard Moe and I went out on our annual trip to the deserts of California. We made a change of plans and, since we were in the neighborhood, went to Tucson, instead. After visits to the Sonoran Desert Museum, Living Stones Nursery, and Miles to Go Nursery we headed back towards California via Organ Pipe National Park. We took in our fill of Arizona and departed. Arriving at our last camp in the Chuckwalla Mountains we hiked out over the washes and hills. At one point, while carefully navigating our way through a thicket of Teddy Bear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii) we noticed a
peculiar looking barrel cactus up the hill. Turning uphill, we discovered a crested Ferocactus cylindraceus! After we recovered from the giddy enthusiasm that often overwhelms cactophiles when they see something new, Maynard dutifully took pictures of the specimen and we headed back to camp. The next morning as we prepared to leave, we found that the car had a flat tire. We fixed it just in time to discover the other flat tire. From here on, the story gets too gruesome to tell, so I'll just say that we happened to arrive home very late that night and that none of the pictures came out.

Ferocactus cylindraceus is the most common of the two Ferocactus in California (the other is F. viridescens from San Diego County).Those who went on one of the New York Mountains field trips saw splendid specimens of the variety lecontei. In the desert, Ferocactus cylindraceus is a single stemmed barrel, which helps identify it from Echinocactus polycephalus, that usually is in clumps and has wool at the crown. Of the thousands of these that I have seen, I have never seen one that was crested.
This year as Maynard and I trekked out into the desert once again, we made it a point to relocate the crested cactus. We arrived at 'Two Flats Camp', checked the tires, and headed off in the direction we remembered from the previous year. There it was, protected by an army of cholla, the 9-headed barrel cactus. This time the pictures made it home, as did we, with our only delay being a date shake at Hadley's.

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