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Recently I visited a friend near Santa Barbara, California, and one day we took a day trip into Los Angeles to see the Huntington Botanical Gardens. In particular, my friend wanted to show me the Desert Garden exhibit. She thought it was pretty special and the highlight of the gardens. I concur with her assessment ... I've never seen such profusion of cacti. The garden has existed for over 100 years, so some of the cacti have grown to monstrous proportions. One cactus of this age is reported to weigh in at 20 tons! And some yucca-type plants have a height of 60 feet.

I had no idea the variety of cacti and succulents that existed. The desert garden display features more than 5,000 species of succulents and desert plants!! And is spread over about 10 acres. It was truly astounding -- dizzying, almost overwhelming, in fact, with the often stark geometry of cacti overlapping one another, and so many varieties packed in so close together. It was so densely grown with such variety, it was like a rainforest or jungle, but of desert plants. A unique place, indeed.

So here is a photographic glimpse of the desert garden for you to contemplate the wonders of nature with. The first photo I originally featured in the Friday Photo section before I put together this post. It gives you a very rough and, frankly, pretty inadequate idea of the varieties of desert plants co-existing in the display. One of my friends made the remark of this display area: watch out for banana peels! You can just see Wylie Coyote go skating into one of these prickly scenes, right?

Typical landscape in the 10-acre desert plant exhibit at Huntington Botanical Gardens.

One friend said of this photo: "Look out for banana peels." Total cartoon situation. Huntington Botanical Gardens.
Giant aloe! That will take care of a lot of burns. Huntington Gardens.
Looks like a cartoon monster of some sort ... Huntington Botanical Gardens.
Forest of succulents at Huntington Gardens
A jungle of cacti and succulents at Huntington Gardens.
There were a fair number of fading cactus blooms and the pods of ones completely finished. But I managed to find some flowers still dazzling in full spread and color.

Brilliant yellow cactus flower. Huntington Botancial Gardens.Striped "petals" of cactus flower, almost translucent. Huntington Botanical Gardens.Almost like fireworks ... cactus bloom explodes. Huntington Botanical Gardens.Interesting fuzzy flower. Huntington Botanical Gardens.Brown black and white flower pods, hard like seeds.Yellow cactus flower with orange center like a ball, not opened.Cactus flower yellow petals and orange center.Close up of cactus ... so many tendrils. Huntington Gardens.
The golden barrel cactus seemed especially photogenic to me. From the Gardens' website, they say: "The ribs of the golden barrel cactus resemble an accordion, expanding and contracting as the plant stores and uses water. Many of the golden barrels you see here were planted from seed before 1915 and now weigh several hundred pounds."

Clump of large golden barrel cactus. Huntington Botanical Gardens.
Golden barrel cactus ... makes for such amazing geometry. Huntington Botanical Gardens.
Typical scene along the path of the desert garden display in Huntington Botanical Gardens.
Rather enormous succulent among large golden barrel cacti. Huntington Botanical Gardens.
And lastly, some of the fauna in the garden ... a sweet little pigeon, and me and my friend, Vida, who so kindly introduced me to this magical desert garden that has forever changed the way I think of and appreciate desert plants.

Pigeon stays still enough for me to grab a photo. Huntington Botanical Gardens.
Vida and me taking a break in the shade in Huntington Botanical Gardens.
**

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