Five hours is all the daylight I saw this week at the Lost Madrone Ranch. Five hours of wonder.
Returning from a short vacation, I made a quick trip to the ranch late Thursday afternoon to work in the garden, maintain the house, and check on sedums, of course. The pace of my short visit was hurried, yet the scramble was not of a stressful nature. My visit was a happy hustle to squeeze in all I wanted to experience.
If you are new to reading Take Comfort, the Saturday Sedum Watch posts are following the growth of sedums at the Lost Madrone Ranch. To catch up on the sedum progression, here are quick links to past sedum posts — March 4, March 11, March 18, March 25, and April 1.
This week, the sedums near the house had me smiling. Summer-green trees surround the patch of shallow soil that is now covered with a thick mat of sedums. Comparing the site today to the site during winter, when only dirt and rocks are present, I am impressed how these tiny plants are making such a commanding statement.
The mat of sedums is becoming thicker across the middle of this area,
and the mat is stretching to the edges where the brown grasses of winter are decaying.
Clumps of sedums break through decomposing leaves,
either in straggly clusters
or in tight bundles — as if they were a band of friends growing through their trials together.
I thought this crowd was particularly curious. Unlike the mats of sedums with uniform leaves, the afternoon sun shining on these sedums highlights smaller bundles of leaves topping each stem.
Perhaps the beginnings of blooms?
Two inches of rain in the gauge upon my arrival let me know a storm went through Comfort at some point this past week. The drench of rain brought new pops of color to the ranch.
Purple verbena is blooming across the ranch. Below is a little clump of sedum nestled up to one display.
These sedums look like they are trying to stand up and measure against a lace cactus about to bloom.
Sedum blooms will last longer than the bloom of a lace cactus, and the collective bloom of sedums is a marvel to view, but an individual sedum bloom cannot compete with the majesty of a lace cactus flower.
Look again at a picture of the sedum site. Did you notice the blooming lace cactus in front of the prickly pear on the left side of the picture?
The official name for Lace Cactus, also called Lace Hedgehog, or Purple Candle, is Echinocereus, reichenbachii, and it is a member of the Cactus (Cactaceae) Family.
At the Lost Madrone Ranch, lace cacti grow on the rocky hilltops around the outcroppings of limestone. They are typically under 10 inches tall, starting as a small sphere and then stretching into a cylinder shape as they mature.
When they bloom they are stunning in brilliant shades of pink.
As soon as I saw the lace cactus blooming, sedum watching temporarily stopped. A lace cactus will open its flower and bloom for only a day, maybe two, and the flower will always close at night. I knew I only had a few hours of light left, and I would not return to the ranch for several days.
I walked the hill around the house and found seven lace cactuses in full bloom.
Once the flower closes forever — see the two top buds of the right cactus below — they become a shriveled bud of spent pink petals that will eventually fall from the body of the cactus.
Some lace cacti grow as a solitary cylinder and others spread in groupings of a dozen or more. Long thin roots travel horizontally on the rock top, and sometimes when you lift them to transplant you will uncover a network of connecting roots.
The number of flowers on a single stem ranges from one big bloom to four or so.
Flowers are showy with 30 to 50 petals ranging in color from a light shade of pink to hot, intense pink.
These pistils look a lot like Pantone “Greenery” to me!
After spotting the blooms by the house, I hurried to my car, with my camera in hand, to drive along the hilltops to see if any other cactus flowers were open.
It is easy to not notice a lace cactus when it is not in bloom — the outer white spines of the cactus camouflage against the weather-exposed gray limestone. (Did you look closer and see the bee carrying pollen?)
There is no missing a lace cactus on the hillside when it is in full flower.
Do you think you would spy a lace cactus on this ridge if the cactus was not in bloom?
By the time I returned to the house, the lace cactus flowers I photographed less than one hour earlier were almost closed.
What a treat. What wonder. I did not expect the timing of my short visit to align with this show.
In my haste to search for lace cactus blooms, I had not finished chronicling the sedums, so I returned to throw down my penny to give perspective to the change.
Here is the perspective I’ve been showing each week.
And guess what?
I set down my penny in a different place and… YELLOW!
I found a sedum turning yellow!
I think it was pure luck.
Can you see the yellow sedum in the picture below?
(Hint: Zoom in and look almost to the bottom, midway left of center.)
After finding this one individual yellow sedum, I walked the entire sedum area again, looking for any other sedums blooming.
I could not find another single sedum that had turned yellow.
Was my short visit also timed to see the first yellow sedum flower of the season? Out of millions of sedums, one has to be the first to bloom, but what would be the odds that I would see that one?
I stayed outside taking pictures until the sun set, imagining what the yellow sedums to come will look like against the yellow glow at dusk.