Paddling to heaven


AND NOW we turn to gardening news.

There’s a rosebush in Tombstone, Arizona, that’s billed as the largest rosebush — tree, actually — in the world.

I have stood beneath it. Zounds!

Little did I know that one day I would be bringing similar fame to my mountaintop town. But in the form of a nopal cactus, that most Mexican of plants.

I have mentioned this monster before, but it just keeps on growing. I attempt to control its horizontal growth with clippers, but its vertical size increases yearly. And now even its horizontal girth is beyond me.

In Springtime, it sprouts red blooms and lots of additional leaves, which are, a reader told me, called paddles. The red blooms will come mostly next month. Sweet.

I planted this big mama about a decade back. There were only two paddles at the time. It was quite small, but it really liked its new location. I planted one in half a whisky barrel in my Houston yard in the 1990s, and it never did squat.

It just sat there lamely.

My wife trashed it after we divorced because she said it was bad feng shui. I do not believe in feng shui because I don’t think the Goddess cares which direction your house faces or if you have cactus in a whisky barrel. Or anything about mirrors.*

The Goddess has larger issues on her plate. She doesn’t care if you eat pork either or clip your baby’s ding-dong. Actually, she greatly prefers that you don’t.

I sat on the ground to take the photo because I thought it would accentuate the nopal’s height, but I think it did just the opposite. This big mama is about 14 or 15 feet high.

No matter. Look at that blue sky.

The cactus below sits in a pot on the edge of the veranda. It’s reveling in Springtime too, as you see.

It’s today’s bonus cactus.

cactus* Mirrors serve only three purposes. 1) Fixing yourself up. 2) Spotting zombies behind you. 3) Lighting fires in the wild.

14 thoughts on “Paddling to heaven

  1. I suppose if you lopped off the main stems to a more manageable height, the plant would sprout more paddles. But I’m no expert.


    1. Carole: I would like to have the tallest nopal in Mexico one day, but I fear it might collapse while I’m walking by, puncturing me to death — or when Abel the deadpan yardman is mowing the adjacent grass in summertime.

      And yes, it always sprouts more paddles. In that, it is relentless.


  2. For what it is worth, here in Arizona, the nopal is a noble reminder of former Mexican communities. We see lines of them growing in vacant lots where people used to live. They are a delicious item when sauteed with pork. But use the newer pencas before they get big and thorny. They are poor people food that the Anglos will never eat.
    But, I have noticed that they seem to be somehow associated with Lupus clusters. I am not sure why.


    1. Señor Gill: Nopal is an immensely popular food here, served almost everywhere. I’m not fond of it due to its often slimy consistency.

      As for your former Mexican communities, we will have Arizona repopulated in no time. Just you wait.


  3. In the supermarket on the weekend I spotted Nopal beer (cerveza de nopal) made in, of course, wait for it….the Czech Republic. Maybe you could ship some paddles across to Prague.


  4. I have a huge, unmanageable nopal cactus in my front yard. Luckily, an elderly Mexican man comes by my house every three of four months and trims it way back. He eats the smaller paddles and feeds the rest to his cattle.


  5. “My wife trashed it after we divorced because she said it was bad feng shui. ”

    Tongue-in-cheek – Is that why she moved you out?


    1. Judy: I never thought of it till this moment, but maybe she believed I was bad feng shui too. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

      Now I’m going into the bathroom and cry.


  6. The first time I remember eating nopal was as a teen when we moved to Guadalajara one year. My mom told me it was green beans. Sauteed with tomatoes and onion, they aren’t half bad.
    I definitely use mirrors to check for zombies behind me; one can’t be too careful when it comes to zombies.


    1. Angeline: Even after all these years down here, I often think for a moment or two that those are string beans on my plate in restaurants.

      But they never, ever are.


  7. Well, speaking of Tombstone, I have been there twice, a story is involved, but not for here, and did not know that there was any reason to be there besides the gunfight and the cemetery.
    I do like nopal though. It needs to be rinsed to get rid of the slime. I don’t think the taste was that great, but it’s supposed to be nutritious.
    I’m pretty impressed with how you’ve used your yard, the plantings and artwork. Keep us informed as to the banana tree pedestals.


    1. Kris: I was in Tombstone only once. Didn’t know about the rose tree till I saw it there. As for nopal, you get rid of some slime by rinsing it, I guess, but I just don’t like the consistency of it. It is reputed to be very healthy.

      As for the two banana tree pedestals, or rather where the trees once were, atop one we have a big pot with another nopal. The other sits empty, awaiting its destiny.


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