Tag Archives: Opuntia microdasys

Bay Area 3: UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley

30 Jul

What is it about botanical gardens or other large, planned gardens that makes them magical places? The kind of place where you can wander in relative silence, revel in the beauty of plants that you have never seen before (or even ones you have seen, though now viewed in a different light), where you can stop and sit on a bench in a hidden spot to soak it all in, or even read, or think? Who designed the spaces, mapped out what types of plants would be featured where, and planned the spots that would lure people and bees and butterflies and birds? They, and the current-day keepers of those gardens, are magicians.

If not already obvious, I love wandering in those kinds of gardens. I like everything about them: the flora, the fauna, the paths and stairs and benches and arches and bridges and streams. The University of California Botanical Garden has many of those features, and is a veritable outdoor museum. It is home to collections of plants from nine major geographic regions around the world, including a large area devoted to California–a biodiversity hotspot that contains more than 40 percent of the world’s plant species. To all this, add special collections including orchids, ferns, cycads, palms, roses, and herbs.

A plant lover could spend days roaming the 34 acres. I only had 5 hours, but I made the best of it; I signed up for a 1.5-hour tour that was being offered (Secret Paths of the Garden), which got me off to a great start via paths less traveled, and then I spent the remaining time wandering to my heart’s content. It really was a magical day.

Here are some of my favorite photos (and plants) from the Garden:

Manzanita Tree Bark

Dudleya Pulverulenta (Chalk Lettuce, Chalk Liveforever)

Encephalartos arenarius (Alexandria cycad)

Opuntia Kuehnrichiana                               Opuntia microdasys (Polka-dot cactus)

Postcard from Montpellier, France: Jardin des Plantes

10 Jun

The second leg of my work trip involved going to Montpellier, France for another round of meetings. I headed there straight from Senegal, which meant I arrived a bit early and could do some sightseeing. Montpellier has many lovely things to see, but I had to prioritize. And truthfully, my heart was set on one main attraction: the Jardin des Plantes–France’s oldest botanic garden, established in 1593 by King Henry IV and managed by the University of Montpellier. Armed with a bottle of water and my camera, I explored every inch of the Garden, spending almost 5 hours there; in fact, I was the first person to arrive that morning. It was so peaceful and beautiful (and a very welcome change from sitting in meetings all day). As the day wore on, people arrived to picnic on grassy areas, read books in shady nooks, and wander around admiring the plants–all in an environment that seemed far removed from the normal bustle of Montpellier life.

Here are a few sights from the Jardin des Plantes: the Garden’s arches, benches, staircases, and pathways; the famous Wish Tree (a phylliria) where lovers leave messages; and a few other plants (a pink Cistus, a spiky Agave stricta Salm-Dyck, and a close-up of the polka-dotted Opuntia microdasys cactus).