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Cardon - The Largest Cactus

Cardon - The Largest Cactus
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Plants
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 1993-04
Categories: Desert
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2007-05-15 10:41
Viewed: 25344
Points: 20
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
For todays posting a chose another unusual plant - this time a cactus. This was the largest one I saw on my visit to Baja California and it is about 16 -18m high, judging from where my head is in the 'I-was-there' shot. The spindy things either side of the Cardon are Boojams.

The cardón cactus (Pachycereus pringlei) is the world's largest cactus. There are about 1200 species of cactus, all of them native to the Americas. The cardón is nearly endemic to the deserts of the Baja California peninsula. Some of the largest cardones have been measured at nearly 21 meters (70 feet) high and weigh up to 25 tons. These very slow growing plants are also extremely long-lived, and many specimens live well over 300 years. ''Cardo'' means ''thistle'' in Spanish. It is said that when Hernando Cortes attempted to establish a settlement in Baja in 1535, the many spiny cacti earned it the name ''Isla de Cardón'', because at the time, they believed the peninsula was an island. In Latin, ''pachy'' means thick and ''cereus'' means waxy. One has only to see the thick arms of this pale gray-green, waxy skinned cactus to understand what the traveling American botanist, Cyrus Pringle, meant when he named the species.

Many visitors to Baja mistake this giant cactus for the ecologically similar saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), another inhabitant of the Sonoran Desert. However, the saguaro does not live in Baja and while there are a few stands of cardón found across the Gulf of California on the Mexican mainland, they seldom occur near the saguaro. The Sonoran Desert in Baja California can be divided into distinct sub-regions: the San Felipe, Vizcaino, Magdalena, and Gulf Coast Deserts. The cardón has adapted to all of these sub-regions and is also found in the tropical dry forests of the Cape. In many of these areas, the cardón is the predominant plant, and may be found growing in large tracts of forest. These large stands of the tall columnar cacti are called ''cardonales''.

The cardón grows best in the deeper soil of the alluvial fans of arroyos and other waterways. The cardón can be found between sea level and about 950 meters (3200 feet) in elevation from near El Rosario in the north, to the tropical Cape region at the southern tip. The cardón occupies only the relatively frost free regions of the Baja deserts, being confined by the freezing temperatures to the areas of Baja south of 31.2 degrees N. The seeds of the cardón will sprout only in the warm wet conditions following the tropical late summer rains or ''chubascos'', which bring most of the seasonal precipitation to many of these desert regions. Another factor limiting geographical distribution is that germination of seeds is best when air temperature exceeds 40 C, but soil surface temperatures remain under 70 C.

The cardón has adapted to the arid conditions of the Sonoran Desert as many cacti have. It has a columnar form to present greater surface area to the morning and evening sunlight, and less to the harsh sun of midday. The branching pattern of the arms maximizes the efficient capture of solar radiation. The cardón needs no leaves -- it is a true ''cladophyll'' -- a plant that performs photosynthesis through its skin, rather than through leaves. Modified epidermal cells in the skin of the stems, called ''chlorenchyma'' do the work of converting sunlight to energy. Water loss during photosynthesis is reduced through crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), a method of photosynthesis that the cardón shares with many of the cacti and succulents that inhabit the dry areas of the world. The stomata on these plants open only after dark, allowing the cactus to absorb carbon dioxide during the cooler night hours, making these plants very water efficient.

This is (yet another) scanned slide:- Agfa 100asa, taken with a Pentax SFX and 28-80 zoom. Light conditions - harsh and bright!

nglen, ramthakur, deblink, Alex99, uleko, Finland_in_Eton has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2007-05-15 11:12]

Hi James . great picture of the Cardon. what a size. like that in the back garden. good compostion and pov with good colour and detail .and great notes. TFs.

What true wonders of natural world you keep on bringing to our computer screens, James!
Your note leaves me gasping with wonder at the monstrous size of this cactus from Baja Desert in California.
I stand by your side, looking up and up and up until my hat falls off my head :-).

Your note is a 'must-read' for anyone looking at this picture.
Best regards.

  • Great 
  • Mana Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1772 W: 36 N: 5597] (18598)
  • [2007-05-15 12:37]

Hi James,
Wow.........such a huge cactus. Superb POV to understand its actual mammomth size. Wonder how old it is. The blue sky enhances the beauty of the shot and presents a good depth to it. Very very informative and educative note. Very nicely composed and presented. Kudos.

  • Great 
  • demeve Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 586 W: 12 N: 1682] (6165)
  • [2007-05-15 12:46]

Hello James, I'm very familiar with this "trees" because we do have a big Saguaro "forest" here in Arizona..The Saguaro National Forest... fine capture my friend..

Hi James,
That's one big Cactus. It looks lovely against the blue sky. Capturing a little of the distant mountain view adds interest to the image, nice. For a scanned image it turned out really well.

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-05-15 23:10]

Hello James

A very well composed shot of this cactus.The POV is very good.The thing is massive.Very good focus and sharp details.The colours are very good.The blue of the sky is very deep.Your notes are very informative.TFS


  • Great 
  • Alex99 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4072 W: 133 N: 7096] (23735)
  • [2007-05-16 8:12]

Hi James.
Amazing shot of this giant and perfect interesting note. I think you have used wide lens. Picture is great: excellently sharpened, illuminated and coloured, Composition is excellent too. My compliments and TFS.

maybe no artistic, but very interesting.

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2007-05-18 11:11]

Hello James,
Terrific capture of this enormous Cactus in a very interesting arid environment. Great depth of focus, sharp details and nice colours. I like the point of view too.
TFS and regards, Ulla

Great detail, beautiful colors (I particularly like the intensity of the blue sky fading to pale), lovely composition, brings the desert to life. Until you've been in the deserts in the Americas you don't appreciate the amount and variety of life there. TFS, Mish

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