These are the literal barrels, Echinocactus grusonii to be precise. What makes this clump special is that it survived subzero temperatures two years ago for several nights (with cold days between) and survived without damage. It is growing in the Arboretum attached to the Visitor Center at Bosque del Apache, one of New Mexico's secret gems...more at the end about this wonderful place...Much could be said about Golden Barrels, but this is not the blog for just them.
Here is another view of the very artistic Arboretum plantings of succulents. These were begun nearly two decades ago by Dan Perry and Socorro Gonzalez Valdez. Big clumps of Opuntia microdasys survived the subzero devastation with equanimity.
Dan and Socorro also have a wonderful private garden with many treasures at their home (where their nursery, Rio Grande Cactus, is also headquartered. One of the MANY plants there that amazed me with this large clump of Echinocactus polycephalus var. xeranthemoides--an endemic of the high Mojave Desert that was planted by the previous owner and has persisted for many years.
There are several greenhouses, each filled with treasures in anticipation of winter (and next spring's sales): above is Gibbaea davisii, a South African succulent. Can one ever have enough?
I find rare plant nurseries like this irresistible, when they have vast arrays of the same species that are so interesting to compare. You never know when a special variation may show up. This is Mammillaria hernandesii, a rare Mexican miniature from Oaxaca.
A closeup of the Mam....CUTE!
And here are masses of Fenestraria aurantiaca in its pure white form. I find those baby toes irresistible! Don't you just want to pinch them? I am slipping here...help! There...I can proceed more soberly...
And one last plant: Ceropegia sandersonii in very cute bloom. Reminds me of certain stapeliads or possibly an Aristolochia (all three groups totally unrelated!)...
I finish with a lovely sunset (look carefully and you will see some Greater Sandhill Cranes flying through it). Dan worked at the Refuge for many years, and seems to genuinely enjoy revisiting and taking along newbies like me and Jan. We had a magical sunset watching hundreds of cranes fly back from the fields where they were gleaning all day, and came back at dawn the next morning to watch most of them fly off for another day's hardwon food.
I have decided we must go back next year and join Dan and Socorro to climb the nearbyChupadera mountain at 5,700' and find the giant Opuntia engelmannii that grows on top. And oh yes, the yellow Penstemon pinifolius he saw a few years ago. Meanwhile, one can dream about the fact that so many "tender" cacti survived the worst cold in a century so well...perhaps we might imagine golden barrels one day that we might grow outdoors in Colorado with a bit of pampering...who knows?