Sunday, June 3, 2012

Plants I'm Growing: First blooms--Cacti in the Garden (June 3, 2012)

I've become lazy about noting the first blooms on plants in the garden this year--an indication that my curiosity has been satisfied. About four years ago I began wondering how consistently plants bloom each year. I wanted to know if you could create a botanical calendar by planting the right species. I wondered if a year calculated as the date of first flowering of a given plant in two successive years was close to 365 days. With these questions in mind, I began recording the first blooms on all the plants in the garden. By doing so and collecting data, I came to the conclusion that I had thought most likely from the outset: that there is often a fairly significant difference from year to year, but a long year is usually followed by a short year, and vice versa, so that on average, plants do, in fact, calculate years close to an astronomical year.

Much has begun to flower in the past few weeks that I haven't recorded, but this morning I noticed two cacti in the garden had started to bloom and I was inspired to get out the camera. So, I record here first blooms of 2012 on the cactus Opuntia basilaris, or Beavertail Cactus (above), and on Opuntia elata, an obscure prickly pear cactus with a beautiful orange flower that appears to be native to Venezuela. The Beavertail Cactus bloomed on May 9, in 2009, May 20, in 2010, May 18, in 2011 and June 3 this year, so this is actually quite late for this plant. It has calculated years of 385, 354, and 381 days, averaging to 373 days, which is still somewhat long. Chances are good that it will bloom earlier next year. I really like the contrast between the blue-green stems of this cactus and its fuchsia-pink flowers.

Opuntia elata bloomed on June 4 in 2009, June 22 in 2011, and June 3 this year. I don't have a record for 2010 because I was in Europe that summer, but June 3 seems a typical bloom date for this plant given the past records I do have.

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