Friday, September 26, 2014

Baja Plants

I have written previously that I love Baja plants almost more than California plants. Actually that is a false dichotomy because the California Floristic Province continues well into Baja. According to Rebman and Robert's book, Baja California Plant Field Guide, 3rd edition (Sunbelt Publications 2012), Californian climate and vegetation extend roughly 250 miles south of the border to the El Rosario region, eastward to the mountains, and including the Pacific Islands as far south as Cedros and Natividad. Even the Sonoran Desert portion of Baja is phytogeographically linked to California's deserts of San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. For example, the Anza-Borrego Desert and Palm Springs are northwestern extensions of the Sonoran Desert.

All this verbiage is intended to justify my inclusion of lots of Baja plants in a garden that I refer to as California natives. In fact, a great many species are found on both sides of the border. To mention just a few common examples, Mission Manzanita (Xylococcus bicolor), Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), Chamise (Adenostema fasciculatum), Laurel Sumac (Malosma laurina), Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica), White Sage (Saliva apiana), California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), and Coast Prickly-Pear Cactus (Opuntia littoralis) are found in the chaparral and coastal sage scrub areas of both Baja and Alta California.

In my search for Baja plants for my garden, I have found some good nurseries that have items. rarely seem for sale. I have compiled a list of these to aid others in their search for interesting Baja plants. Below are three nurseries and their web sites. All taxa listed below are native to the California Floristic Province.

Arid Lands Greenhouses, Tucson –
Agave deserti var. deserti
Agave deserti var. pringlei
Agave moranii (west slope San Pedro Martir mountains)
Agave shawii ssp. goldmanniana
Agave turneri (Sierra Cucapa)
Bursera hindsiana
Bursera microphylla
Pachycormus discolor var. veatchiana (Cedros Island)
Lophocereus schottii
Pachycereus pringlei
Ferocactus fordii (coastal dunes)
Ferocactus gracilis ssp. gracilis
Cylindropuntia molesta
Cylindropuntia tesajo
Yucca valida

Mesa Gardens, Belen, NM – – they have both plants and seeds
 Agave shawii
Echinocereus maritimus (coastal bluffs)
E. pacificus (coastal bluffs)
Ferocactus chrysacanthus (endemic to Cedros Island)
F. fordii (coastal dunes)
F. gracilis 
Lophocereus schottii
Mammillaria dioica
M. setispina (reclassified to Cochemia setispina)
M. tetrancistra
Myrtillocactus cochal
Opuntia burrageana (reclassified to Cylindrountia alcahes var burrageana)
Pachycereus pringlei

Grigsby Cactus Gardens – Vista -
Ferocactus chrysacanthus (endemic to Cedros Island)
F. Gracilis 

Dudleya attenuata var. orcuttii
D. candida (endemic to Coronados Islands)

I recently got a large, sturdy but old and beaten up terra cotta container from a neighbor. It had cracks and crevices in it that reminded me of a Baja canyon, and I decided it would be perfect for some Baja succulents. I enlarged the crack to make it look even more canyon-like and made other alterations.

In the upper part of the container I planted a Boojum Tree (Fouquieria columnaris) that I bought from Arid Lands. They ship their plants bare-root which most succulents can handle with no problem. The Boojum was leafed out but the leaves were wilted and soon dropped off, which is typical of Fouquierias. It re-leafed again in about 2 weeks and is looking great. 

In the lower part of the container, stepping down the "canyon" wall, I planted two cacti: Echinocereus brandegei (the taller one in back) and Mammillaria blossfeldiana (the shorter ones in front). These are both native to the Sonoran Desert part of Baja where Boojums live. At the bottom of the V is a Dudleya attenuata var. orcuttii which is from closer to the border and also occurs in San Diego County. I have this container in full sun and watering every 2 weeks during the warm weather. When it cools off I will cut back to monthly watering, or less if we get rain.

Next is a Grusonia invicta (formerly classified as Opuntia) which comes from the Vizcaino Desert of Baja, a much more arid region than the Sonoran. When the Vizcaino gets rain, it is usually only when a Chubasco (hurricane) hits central Baja, such as Odile did this summer. I put my G. invicta in a container where I can more easily control how much water it gets.

One of the notable features of this cactus is its formidable spines which are flattened and quite stout, almost like a stiletto.

I am placing this cactus in a small grouping with two other Baja cacti, a Ferocactus fordii and a F. peninsularis. The former is from the beaches of the Pacific coast in the California climate zone. The latter is from hillsides and plains in the southern portion of the peninsula.

I recommend Baja plants to anyone interested in expanding their palette of California plants, particularly for So Cal gardens. Mine all seem really happy in San Diego County.

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