Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Still Springtime Cactus Season!

We're receiving a reprieve from an early approach towards 100F here in the desert. In fact, we've enjoyed recent highs in the 70s, which make for some spectacular Spring days! Everyone knows that it won't be long, though... But we're enjoying the moderate temperatures while we can - even the extended weather forecast doesn't include 90s.  The moderate temperatures are extending the cactus flowering season as they aren't in such a hurry to blossom when it is cooler.

It seems I spend a lot of time in my neighbor Susan's front yard. The image at left of her prickly pear appeared over a month ago, and this same plant is featured almost every year as a neat demonstration of focus-stacking, like the image at right - this one from 2 years ago. One of the joys of shooting this particular cactus is that over the years it has grown to about 5 feet in height, so no more groveling on the ground to get a close-up - standing looking through the viewfinder is a nice luxury!

But while the buds have made an annual appearance, I've rarely shown the flowers! They don't last more than a day, and often are wilty-looking by the time I get home in the afternoon, so haven't chased them down often. At left is a shot of nearly the entire bush. Fortunately all the buds don't bloom at once, but at a couple dozen per day, the estimated 200 buds still last over a week. Likely a Santa Rita Prickly Pear, I love the color contrast of the purple-ish pads and bright yellow flowers this time of year. And, of course, you wouldn't be able to get away without a close-up of the flower and buds. Shown at right is a focus-stack showing a few flowers and buds that remain to bloom. This is a 6-frame focus stack, where each frame had a slightly different focus to assure everything was sharp.

But that isn't the only plant holding my attention these days! They also have a few saguaro cacti. I've been at this location for 30 years and I remember these cacti before they had arms! Anyway, this one has seen better days - in the wide view at left, you can see it has lost the top of the main column, and even though the downward-pointing arm is covered with buds, it is mostly hollow and can be seen through from several points. All this damage was brought on by cold temperatures in the teens a few years ago. Many plants died off that winter and even many native plants suffered, including this saguaro. But while it is here presenting flower buds (and soon flowers, I hope!), I'll gladly take photos of it!  The close-up at right is a 7 frame focus-stack. Can't wait for some blooms here - look for some anaglyphs below!

My friend Dick told me about a cactus show and sale a couple weeks ago. I had never been to one and didn't know what to expect, but ended up buying a couple different cacti. They are still in pots - not in the ground yet, but hoping to before it gets too warm as it lessens the attention I've got to pay to them for watering as they get too hot in pots... The three specimens I ended up with are shown at right. The left one was mis-labeled an echino fossil cactus, which I can't find on the Google, so not sure what I've really got here. The middle one is a mammillaria longimamma, with flower bud at right, and the right hand cactus is an oreocereus trollii. Our friend Donna called it "Einstein", but I think it more closely resembles Bernie Sanders!

And because it's my blog, here be anaglyphs! Grab the red/blue 3D glasses and be amazed! Because I just showed the shots of my new cacti from the sale, will show them first. As I normally do, these are put together from a pair of images, taken from slightly different perspectives. When each is viewed with the appropriate eye, your brain interprets them into 3D. For these macro shots, the baseline is quite small - only an inch or less.

At left is my still-unknown "fossil" cactus. I love the surface wrinkles and the spines that threaten to poke you in the eye! And at right, "Bernie's" hair shows up quite nicely in 3D...

Here is the mammillaria longimamma, both when I first brought it home, and 10 days later when it bloomed the other day. The brilliant yellow flower is shockingly different, and with the cool temperatures and partial shade, has opened 3 days in a row! This cactus is supposed to be easy to start new ones - tear off one of the fingers, let it dry a day or two and plant it for an entirely new plant...

And finally, closing up with a couple anaglyphs of Susan's saguaro. I was shooting from a stepladder, estimating what the baseline should be (generally going too large), but the result is very interesting! I hope you enjoy!

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