Botanical Mysteries Solved!

As part of’s “The $20 Project,” which began yesterday and in which various contributors see how far a Jackson can be stretched, I opted to get on my bike and the Gold Line Sunday and get on out to the L.A. County Arboretum in Arcadia. The resulting post is scheduled to go live about 1 p.m. today so I won’t redundate here what you can read there then, but if you want to tour through the 103 pictures taken during the excursion those are already up on Flickr, here.

Instead, the point of this post is to give props to the remarkable arboretum, not just for being a fabulous place to visit (and one I’ve been wanting to go to since I first learned about it on my way to nearby Santa Anita Racetrack waaaaaay back in like 1987), but also for helping to put a slow-simmering cactus dispute to rest while also solving an ongoing tree mystery.

I believe I’ve carped on this exchange before… the one that grew from my YouTube post of that cactus bloom timelapse, in which a commenter was absofuckinglute in saying I was wrong to identify the succulent as a member of the San Pedro cactus family (despite the fact that several sources listed it as just that).

The person wrote: “That cactus is not an Echinopsis or Trichocereus species, it is a Cereus specie. Tricho means hairy and cereus means candle, all Trichocereus flowers have hairy flower stalks, that is a way to ID them. That plant cannot be San Pedro.”

Well guess what Cactus Expert Person, while in the arboretum I just happened to pass the very same plant that was the subject of my video and will you lookee here, there’s an ID tag in the ground next to it. Let’s read it, shall we?


“Not an echinopsis,” you say?  “Cannot be San Pedro,” you assert? Well here’s what I retort: ppfppfppfpfpfpfpfpfpfpfpfpfpfpfpfpfffffff!

Moving on to the decidedly less combative arbor enigma. There are a number of the same tree species growing along both sides of our street, including one  in the next door neighbor’s front yard that extends across ours. It’s a wonderful tree, neverminding that there isn’t much of the year when it isn’t shedding leaves or seed pods.

In my ignorance I figured it was an elm of some sort. An ignorance that the arboretum abated when the same species of tree presented itself to me. The first thing I noticed was the similar leaf structure and the copious number of green berries, some of which had ripened to a black color:


Next I examined the bark, which was also the same in texture and look. And attached to the trunk was signage that finally put the three-year-old mystery to rest:



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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."