(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 5, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
In the midst of a cold Midwestern winter, nothing chases away the blues like heading to a far-away warm destination. A few years back I was fortunate to escape chilly Illinois and head to the Los Cabos area in Baja Sur, Mexico. If you've been to that area you know that it has an interesting "tropical desert" geography. Mountains run through the middle of the peninsula, which is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez.
Tourism created a number of areas awash in colorful oleander and bougainvillea, as well as lush green golf courses. A trip into uninhabited areas shows the true geography of the area. The thorn forest of southern Baja contains many large cacti as well as succulents, spiny shrubs and trees, whose only moisture is derived from infrequent rainfall and ocean mist. The juxtaposition of the desert and ocean was just mind-boggling to this Midwestern girl. As a gardener, I looked forward to seeing flora and fauna I had never been exposed to before. It really wasn't a surprise then to my husband, who would rather be deep-sea fishing, that I would drag him through the countryside looking at the scenery. He loves to tell the story of how I strapped him into a jeep and carted him off through treacherous roads in attempts to find the town of Candelaria; a town famous for exotic plants, small gardens and healing witchcraft. But that's a story for another day.
On less dangerous ground, a local botanical garden provides a closer view of some native Mexican plants. Cacti Mundo is located in the town of San José del Cabo near the tip of Baja Sur and was created for the preservation, promotion and reproduction of typical Mexican and other international desert species. Cactus lovers Señor Pablo Gonzalez Carbonell and Josef Schrott collaborated to bring the world this "desert dessert," sweetly tucked along the Sea of Cortez coast. The collection is diverse with over 850 different species artistically represented in the garden. Rare and threatened species make appearances at the garden and often are reintroduced to native areas by Cacti Mundo. The Mexican Golden Barrel Cactus for example, is extinct in the wild but being reintroduced to its native central state of Querétaro. As a bonus, many species at Cacti Mundo have been cultivated and offered at local nurseries.
Although small in size (perhaps the size of a small grocery store) this 15+ year-old garden is comprised of nearly 5000 plants for your enjoyment. Here are a few of photos from my visit.
Cacti Mundo is best visited when you have time to leisurely stroll through the collection. The small wheel-shaped facility may take only 30 minutes or so to view but if you plan on photographing species or taking notes, allow extra time. You'll find shaded areas but don't forget to consider the heat during your visit.
Whether you are a cactus aficionado or a novice nature lover, you'll certainly enjoy this stunning collection and appreciate the conservation efforts of Cacti Mundo.
Oh, one more thing … I highly advise you "look but don't touch."
Thanks to DG Member and Writer Geoff Stein ('palmbob') for help in identifying some of these species! To view a list of Geoff's articles on exotic plants, visit his member page.
About Marna Towne
I am one of those fortunate individuals who grew up on rural land that has been in my family for decades. My parents and grandparents were avid gardeners who gladly shared their love of gardening with me. Today I enjoy a small yard in town with my husband, two dogs and a cat who is in charge of us all.