Date Palm Grove, Coachella Valley, California
Desert Cactus, California
Dates are native to the Middle East and have been cultivated for thousands of years. The Spanish missionaries introduced dates to northern Mexico and California in the late 1700s but it wasn’t until much later that they were cultivated as a crop. Date Palms were first planted in the desert of the Coachella Valley of California beginning in 1890 and eventually covered over 6,500 acres producing over 40 million pounds of four different varieties of dates, Deglet-Noor, Medjool, Barhi and Zahidi. The growing of dates was made possible through irrigation and the dates were sold commercially. The best-known variety is probably Medjool that has a high quality is large and soft and ships well. About 15% of the world’s dates are grown in California and Arizona.
Unlike the dates that were imported from other countries, the cacti shown on the postcard are native to the Americas. Most of the cacti shown in the picture on the card are the smaller ball-shaped columnar type. They grow in harsh, arid conditions like a desert. Almost any fleshy cactus fruit is edible and can be preserved by drying or boiling to make syrup. The ball-shape of these smaller and some larger plants allows for more water retention when water is available. People have been known to extract some liquid from cacti when in the desert and in need of fluids. Catci are ribbed succulents that swell or shrink depending on how much water is stored inside the plant. They do not have leaves but do have spines instead. When we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Preserve near Austin, Texas last year we saw many cacti in bloom. The flowers are colorful and beautiful while the plant is more interesting than pretty. Below are some examples of cacti in bloom from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Preserve.
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