A cactus doesn’t live in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn’t killed it yetHope Jahren, American geochemist
Cacti are hard to ignore. They grow where little else will and if you happen to touch one you’ll probably find it even harder to ignore!
I enjoy photographing cacti mainly for their sculptural forms. The contrasts of light and dark, smooth and spiky, can create some interesting images.
Cacti also remind me of the open desert landscapes I love. They manage to survive in some of the harshest conditions and bring life to an otherwise barren landscape. They epitomise endurance and strength.
For Denzil’s Nature Photo challenge this week I’ve searched out some cacti from my archives. Many are from my travels but a couple are from much closer to home, Kew Gardens. In addition to a small gallery of photos of different cactus species, I’m also sharing some more detailed information about the opuntia or prickly pear cactus in the Galápagos Islands.
Aloe vera in the grounds of a hotel in Namibia, Eningu Lodge
My feature photo was taken in another Namibian hotel garden, in the Kalahari Desert
Another cactus from Namibia, also at Eningu Lodge
Golden Barrel Cactus, Praia, Santiago, Cape Verde
Another Golden Barrel Cactus, this one in Kew Gardens, London
Mammillaria, Kew Gardens, London
Echinopsis (I think), Jardin Majorelle, Marrakesh
An aloe in a vivid pot, Jardin Majorelle, Marrakesh
Opuntia in the Galápagos
Like many stories from the Galápagos, this is a tale of adaptation and evolution. The land iguanas there have adapted to feed on the available vegetation and surprisingly perhaps, their favourite is the prickly pear cactus or opuntia. This in turn has evolved, growing much taller than elsewhere in the world to be out of reach of the iguanas, but the latter simply stand on their hind legs to reach the pads and fruit. They have a leathery, tough tongue and don’t need to remove the spines from the cactus before eating. The cactus forms about 80% of their diet and ensures that they get plenty of water even in the arid dry season.
Land iguana eating an opuntia, North Seymour, Galápagos
Opuntia on Santa Fe in the Galápagos Islands
Opuntia on Rabida Island, Galápagos
Land iguanas can no longer be found on Rabida as they were extirpated following the introduction of goats and rats, but the adapted opuntia remain
More opuntia on Rabida Island, Galápagos
Lava cactus (Brachycereus) on Bartolomé Island, Galápagos
Land iguanas don’t live here but even if they did I suspect this one might be too spiny even for them!