A Little Desert Education for You

For children and grown-ups alike, the word cactus conjures up images of two-armed saguaros, thanks to Wile E Coyote and his nemesis Roadrunner.


Our kids have grown up in the desert, so things like cacti, Joshua trees, black widows, and, unfortunately, scorpion infestations are common to them. Ironically, the part of the Mojave Desert where we lived was abundantly supplied with Joshua Trees, but had almost no saguaro. We had to hit Saguaro National Park for that.

Join us on our hike and get your desert cactus education along the way! Now pay attention, because this cactus lesson is for…



Lesson one: cacti are sharp…


so don’t do this:


Lesson two: in a match fight between a cactus and a map, put your money on the cactus.


Yup, that’s stuck.

Lesson three: some cacti produce fruit, like this fishhook barrel cactus. In this case, you don’t want to eat it. It’s not for the weak stomach…or the strong stomach. Ouch and eeewwww.


You can—and we did—eat the pads of the prickly pear cactus. It’s…slimy. And no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. Someone else was feasting on this one:


Lesson four: cacti come in all shapes and sizes. This is a chainfruit cholla (pronounced choy-uh, which you’d know if you paid attention in Spanish class).


This is a pencil cholla (choy-uh), no relation to the writing implement.


And a cute little fuzzy wuzzy teddy bear cholla (choy-uh).


Don’t you just wanna hug it? DON’T!

These cacti are called loco. Avoid them at all costs.


This saguaro is an out-of-the box thinker. We can relate, dude.


Just like in people, surviving hardship (weather-related in the case of the plant) usually causes such unique character.

Saquaro cacti don’t produce arms until they’re at least 70 years old, and it’s considerably longer for them to produce fingers. The character above has some years on him.

These fellas below are relatively young, like in their early 100s, hanging out at the local teen joint, wearing their pants a little too low. Get a belt!


Lunch break!


Welcome to La Café de la Dia (The Café of the Day):


Okay, we’re back.

This desert flora is called palo verde. That’s a cool name. In Spanish it means green stick, so if you speak Spanish, it’s not a cool name. Seriously, is green stick a cool name? No. Palo verde? Yes. I’m trying that trick tonight at dinner. “We’re not having boring beans tonight. We’re having Frijoles Aburridos!” Oooooooooo…frijoles aburridos. So cool.

Anyway, palo verde. Green stick. Here it is:


Another aptly named cactus is this barrel cactus, because it’s a cactus, and it’s shaped like…come on…you can get it…a barrel! Very good.


Lesson five: the desert is a remarkable display of the imagination of our Creator, with a unique and rugged beauty all its own.


If you pay attention, you will see that it is a stunning place, full of life


and death, also beautiful in its way.


Lesson six: Be alert. Despite its beauty, the desert is not without its share of dangers, such as low-hanging cacti


and teenage drivers.


Ten and two…ten and two!

This is Marissa saying, “I’m not sure whether to be afraid or terrified.” She ain’t talkin’ about the desert, people.


Ah, what’s not to love about the desert?!


(Rebecca tried really hard to make that heart with her chubby little hands, so just pretend you see it. Thanks. You’re awesome.)

Now wasn’t that little desert education fun?


Yes, indeed it was.

Let’s review.

Don’t touch.


Don’t eat.


Cholla (choy-uh).


Consider yourself funducated.


  1. Linda Placencia

    Love this! Thank you for sharing! Also appreciated the concert @ Deer Valley Lutheran in Phoenix.

    1. Thanks you for your comment, Linda!

      We had a wonderful time at Deer Valley Lutheran. You people really made us feel at home. Thank you so much!

  2. Sheila Henderson

    Hello. I found your delightful posts on Facebook. Now, I am subscribed to your newsletters, and I am looking forward to them.

    1. Welcome on the journey, Sheila! Great to have you on board. 🙂

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