While Andrea is busy doing nothing in her cubicle this summer, I’ll be taking over her Hidden Treasures posts with a few of my personal favorites. And now that we’re almost halfway through the quarter (!), it’s the perfect time to explore the Arizona Cactus Garden. Yes, on campus. Not in Arizona.
The garden was first planted in the early 1880s by architect Rudolf Ulrich and was originally part of a much larger design (including, ironically, an artificial lake) that never came to be. In it’s heyday (i.e. such a long time ago that there was still such a thing as dating at Stanford) the garden was considered to be quite the place for “courting”: an old song goes, “Down by the cactus so silent and still/The Junior has come to the question at last/And love him? The maiden has promised she will/Until the long fever called living is past.” Awwww.
Being a tour guide has its advantages, among them the ability to (get paid to) go on tours of places like MemChu and the Cactus Garden to ‘enhance our knowledge of campus.’ Our tour guide was Christy Smith, who coordinates and helps maintain the garden with a staff of volunteers. She took us around the garden and explained how it had evolved over the years, especially its relatively recent restoration after being effectively abandoned during WWII. She showed us a pretty stunning variety of cacti, from plants that are used to derive itching powder to a cluster of flowers covered in self-manufactured white powder to protect them from the sun. I’m no bio major, but plants that make their own sunscreen is pretty freakin’ cool.
The moral of the story is that if you haven’t been to the Cactus Garden, go. Seriously. Right now. There’s no reason not to. Unless it’s nighttime and you’re scared (pansy…). It’s a truly beautiful place that looks unlike almost anything else I’ve seen. You can find a map of the garden here, as well as a campus map highlighting its location here. I’ve uploaded all of the photos I took to a Flickr page here.
If you’re interested in checking out other cool nature resources on campus, try these links: trees, birds, groundskeeping , Jasper Ridge, and other horticultural points of interest (see also the TUSB post about fruit and nut trees on campus, though it’s somewhat inaccurate). If you’d like to volunteer at the Cactus Garden, contact Christy Smith.