Happy International Plant Appreciation Day (April 12)! The day is a celebration of all plants and the benefits they provide. It’s also the perfect time to add new ones to your landscape.
Visitors might notice a few cactus additions at Desert Botanical Garden.
Garden horticulturalists recently planted 18 cactus, mainly of the genus Copiapoa, at the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Desert Terrace Garden. Last year, about 29 cactus from the same collection were planted in the Sybil B. Harrington Cactus Gallery.
These prickly plants are part of the Garden’s Fred Kattermann Collection. Kattermann is an enthusiast cactus and succulent collector from Wantage, New Jersey, who donated 90% of his collection to the Garden in 2013. Though not a botanist, he grew hundreds of succulents in his greenhouses as a hobby throughout the years. One of his most notable collections involved the cactus from the desert regions of Chile, northern Argentina and Peru. As Kattermann aged, he wanted to ensure his collection continued thrive and provide knowledge to future generations. So, he gifted his treasures to several botanical gardens — the majority of which went to the Garden.
But receiving these plants was an unforgettable journey, Garden staff recalls.
Shipping companies don’t have an option to mail 50-year-old plants that require specific temperatures. And it’s hard to check dozens of bags filled with plants on an airline. So, Garden staff had to rent a U-Haul to safely transport them from New Jersey to Phoenix.
The mission required a lot of work and preparations from the Garden’s Research, Collections and Conservation and Horticulture departments.
Garden horticulturalist Ray Leimkuehler traveled with colleague Curator of Living Collections Raul Puentes to bring the Kattermann Collection to the Garden. They created shelves within the U-Haul to hold more than 1,300 potted plants. The team also had to cautiously step on the vehicle’s brakes throughout the trip so the cactus wouldn’t fall over or get damaged.
However, the adventure really began when the team had to beat a winter storm in the Northeast at the time, Leimkuehler says.
“It was a race South to get them to Arizona,” Leimkuehler says.
Most of the plants in the U-Haul are cactus in the genera: Copiapoa and Eriosyce. These cactus are native to the dry coastal deserts of northern Chile. Though they don’t need a lot of water, they do require heat. Leimkuehler says it would have been difficult keeping the plants alive if they had been stuck in the storm. After all, they were transporting living organisms.
After beating the storm and traveling more than 2,500 miles, the team safely arrived to the Garden with the Kattermann Collection on March 29, 2014.
Now, for the first time ever, Garden guests will be able to see them out on the trails.
Here are a couple of cactus species that have been planted:
- Copiapoa cinerea (Left)
- This cactus is globular and then columnar as it grows. The epithet cinerea is a Latin word meaning ash or ash-colored. This plant is native to Chile.
- Copiapoa haseltoniana (Right)
- This clumpy cactus is native to the Atacama Desert of Chile.