The Cactus Patch
Volume 7       July 2004      Number 7

A Whirlwind Home Leave
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 25th of April we flew from the Canaries to Gatwick Airport in London.

We arrived at 12:35 a.m. and had a cup of tea, noting that the plant by our table was Zamioculcus zamiifolia! This is an unusual succulent in the Araceae (Arum family) which is on the red data list as endangered in Zimbabwe. I noticed one at the Tri-City Show in California in 2000 and have found it for sale in Botswana (I now have one).

We took an early morning bus across London to Heathrow Airport and had a full English breakfast while waiting for our flight out at 11:50 a.m.. We watched 3 1/2 movies and had a good view of ice on Hudson's Bay on our way to L.A. We had a long wait in L.A. and finally landed in Bakersfield at 11:17 p.m.. James and Emily met us with their surprisingly quiet hybrid car (the first we had seen) and we settled into Pryor St. at midnight.

Not wishing to let us recover, the family threw a belated birthday party for me at Anne's on the 26th. Being gluttons for punishment, Polly and I went to the BCSS board meeting on the 27th. The only event on the 28th was a pizza dinner at the Olive Drive Church. On the 29th the family again gathered (this time at the Red Lobster) for Alice's 87th birthday. Even John was there from Sacramento to help tease the poor lobsters.

As reported already, we helped set up the BCSS Yard Sale on the 30th and bought everything on the 1st of May. Having nothing better to do we drove to Culver City on the 2nd for the Sunset C&SS Show & Sale. I bought a small Hoodia. As a bonus, there was a Bromeliad (pineapple family) Show and Sale there too! On the way we noted a few Yuccas still in bloom by Pyramid Lake and some monkey flowers in bloom just north of L.A. After lunch we went across to Orange for a wedding reception for Polly's niece Marina. After pictures in the park, we all had a great mid-eastern dinner at the Byblos Restaurant. The chocolate cake with berries on top was much too rich, but we ate it anyway.

Next morning we had breakfast at Polly's (where else?) with Cathy, mother of Marina, who had come out from Detroit. Then it was off to Joshua Tree to see Ginny, Polly's one sister who didn't get to Orange. The Joshua Trees were mostly in fruit, but a couple were in bloom. The ocotillo in the front yard (planted) was also in bloom. That night we watched the finish of "10.5" on TV and were glad to see it followed by experts laughing their heads off as they watched it. The special effects were great, but the "science" sucked. I hope I'm right in saying a 10.5 earthquake will never happen.

On the 4th we returned to Bakersfield by way of Woody's in Little Rock where we watched a humming bird on his flowers and saw a mockingbird chase a crow. His leopard tortoises (native to Botswana) were also entertaining. I bought two more Hoodias. The 5th was a quiet day with just a bit of shopping. A scrub jay was noted in the yard.

On the 6th we drove up to Fresno, had Chinese lunch with Polly's sisters Nancy and Martha (a starling was nesting in the eves), visited Thrift Shops, had dinner at Acapulco with the Fresno CSS and I gave a talk on "Hoodia Hoodoo". Next day we did more shopping and had lunch at the hokey "Elephant Bar". On the 8th Polly went to a Mother/Daughter Brunch with her sisters and niece Margaret (three "mothers" & one daughter?), we noted a hawk chased by crows and we returned to Bakersfield. We had a phone call from Herb Thorne in Fresno to say his wife, Sue, was in a coma and not expected to live. Her obituary appeared in the Californian on the 18th. The Thornes were stalwarts in the Kern Cactus Club in the 60's & 70s. On Mother's Day we went to church with Alice and had a family lunch at the Pedal Car.

On the 10th Alice went to a memorial service for John Hershey, a long-time family friend, and we sat in on the rehearsal of the Community Choir at Cal State. On the 11th a thrush (American robin) was building a nest out front and we had lunch at Cactus Valley. On the 13th did more shopping. On the 14th James and Emily took us to see "A Day Without a Mexican". (James thinks that's a horrible idea.)

On the 15th I sang with the Men's Chorus at a memorial for Slim Gordon, another long-time family friend. Then we drove up to Fresno for the FCSS Show and Sale. I must say the presentation of specimens at these shows is great! I bought a small euphorbia because I liked its pot and we won a couple of garden stepping-stones in the raffle. We then drove on to Sacramento and had a Mongolian BBQ with relatives there.

Next day we went to Imax with John and saw "Roar", a film about the lions of the Kgalagadi (which they referred to as the Kalahari Desert!). We also watched the "Nascar" film because it was 3D (and the second film was half-price). I am happy to report no trouble in seeing the 3D. We then toured old Sacramento and had another family dinner at Joe's Crab Shop. We had a dancing waiter that looked like the Fonz, but he didn't know the song "Happy Days"!

Next day it was back to Bakersfield where Polly managed to throw her knee out hopping up on the bed to close the curtain. On the 18th she was x-rayed at Mercy and nothing was broken - just a pulled ligament - but the pain persists. We managed to get to "Shrek II" (not as good as the first) on the 19th, did more shopping on the 20th and cheered for Emily at her graduation from BC on the 21st. We went to J&E's apartment afterwards for a party.

On the 22nd J&E drove us down to Universal Studios (we'd never been) and we took turns pushing Polly around in a wheelchair. We saw a deer next to some flowering broom at Pyramid Lake on the way. We also noted the Prince's Plume in bloom just before Castaic. It was a hectic day, but well worth it. Laurel & Hardy met us first thing in the morning and wished us "Good afternoon" to which I replied "Good evening". The only thing I saw of Mickey was his ears in the "Jurassic Park" muck (no respect!), but the drop on that ride wasn't as bad as expected. I especially liked the donkey "spit" and spider "tickling" effects on the "3D Shrek" flick. The noise of "Spiderman" (even with earplugs) was a bit of a downer. All in all, one of the best theme parks. We stopped at Gorman on the way back and a field mouse was caught in the headlights.

We packed on the 23rd, had a farewell lunch at the Thai Garden and left on the 24th. We were met with a wheel chair for Polly at all the airports. After a long stopover in LA, we flew to Atlanta where we had breakfast on the 25th. Then we watched 5 movies on the long flight to Cape Town, arriving on the 26th. After a short wait we flew to Johannesburg and then Gaborone. The arrival and subsequent marathon will be next month's topic.

We regret not getting out to the Cal State garden or going on the Ojai trip and all the other things we didn't do. There are always too many choices.

Among the many books I bought while in California were two ordered from Rainbow Gardens Bookshop. Fortunately they kindly rushed my order and I got them before leaving. The first is "Monograph of Orbea and Ballyanthus" by P. V. Bruyns (Vol. 63 in the Systematic Botany Monographs, Am. Soc. of Plant Taxonomists, 2002). Warning! This is a highly technical book. It lumps Orbeopsis, Orbeanthus, Pachycymbium, and Angolumma into a much broader definition of Orbea. These are all carrion flowers related to stapelias. I find that Orbea gossweileri, which I have just managed to locate in Botswana, is subsumed under Orbea huillensis. I am a lumper, so I appreciate this approach.

The other book is one which ordinary mortals can appreciate: "Flowering Plants of the Galapagos" ( C. K. McMullen,1999, Comstock Pub., Ithaca.) It is simply written and well illustrated. I am glad to finally see the plants get the same recognition as the animals. (Guess where Polly is planning to deviate to on our next home trip.)

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