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Field Guide Series – Common Desert Cactus

by | Aug 2, 2022

Gain fundamental, practical knowledge of your surroundings

“Small but Mighty” may be the best way to describe our new Easy Field Guides, reviewed by our own Yvonne Prater, Director of Operations. Each book is fully illustrated, and filled with a plethora of interesting facts that are easy to understand to help answer the thoughtful question, “What is that?” These guides are published by American Traveler Press and can be found in the River of Time gift shop, Riverbanks.

Beginning now and running through the winter, Yvonne will be reporting on a different guide each month, choosing topics from our surroundings such as plants, animals, stars, history, and archaeology, to name a few. The first guide in her series is entitled “Common Desert Cactus.”

First…What is a Desert Cactus?

North America’s deserts include areas in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. In this field guide you will be able to identify the most common species of cacti found in the Southwestern deserts of the United States. But first, let’s define what a cactus really is. Quite simply, a cactus is any plant which has areoles. Areoles are little structures on stems of cacti from which spines grow. Spines can either be found in the center of or around the edge of the areole.

Easy to Use! It’s in the Name – “Easy Field Guides”!

This guide is easy to use: Just find your desired cactus for identification and examine it carefully. Then the guide asks a set of basic questions regarding characteristics of the cactus beginning with stems and whether or not it has branches, followed by what type of fruits or flowers it produces. From there, the guide directs you to another page for further classification narrowing down your choice to a particular species of cactus.

The most common species of cacti found in Southwest deserts are chollas, prickly pears, pincushions, cereuses, barrels, and hedgehogs. Then listed and described are the different categories of cacti under each species. Did you know that agaves, ocotillos, and yuccas are not cacti at all? They are often mistaken for cacti, but they do not have areoles.

Available Now at Riverbanks at the River of Time

There is great pleasure to be had from gaining fundamental, practical knowledge of your surroundings. We hope you enjoy and anticipate each month the selected topics in this series.

These guides are published by American Traveler Press and can be found in the River of Time gift shop, Riverbanks. We are open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the summer.