2a - The Beginning

                                       CACTUS RESCUE PROJECT BEGINNINGS


 Can one person make a difference? How about two people? It began with a spring walk in the high desert during cactus blooming season. Two friends, after hiking around New Mexico and seeing how tough, hardy, and beautiful cactus flowers were,  decided to start planting them in each of their yards.  Joe and Obie, armed with thick leather gloves, barbecue tongs, a Toyota pickup with over 200 thousand miles on it,  started their quest to collect cactus and in the process learned of the Santa Fe Cholla.


Santa Fe Cholla, (Opuntia viridiflora, syn. Cylinropuntia viridiflora), is quite different in shape, size and color bloom from the common Tree Cholla, (Opuntia imbricata, syn. Cylindorpuntia imbricata), which grows throughout New Mexico and in nearby Texas, Arizona and Colorado.  Smaller and bushier, it has a bronze orange to salmon pink flower, (instead of the typical purple flower of the tree cholla).  It is also an endangered species.

***Being an endangered species makes it illegal to collect cutting, plants, or seeds without a permit from the Forest Service!***


After meeting Dave Ferguson, cactus expert and curator of the Rio Grande Botanical Gardens, and learning of the plight of the Santa Fe Cholla, it became our mission to see if two total novices could save such a beautiful and worthy plant. Thus the beginning of the Cactus Rescue Project, (CRP).


Santa Fe is one of two homes to the Santa Fe Cholla.  There are approximately only 100 mature plants left in the park.  Its second home is 20 miles north between  Pojoaque  and Espanola where some small groups are found at random places. 


Why is this plant endangered? Because it sits on prime real estate and its existence is no competition to builders, developers and the public’s lack of knowledge about its plight.  Without the park limiting development,  the Santa Fe Cholla could already have been gone.



We’ve placed plants via our local flea market, presented plants at a meeting of the New Mexico Mountain Club during a lecture on NM endangered plants, and have done small installations in private homes and businesses in the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area.  We even had an articles in the Santa Fe Monthly and in the Colorado Cactus Club newsletter.


With numerous Santa Fe Cholla growing in our own yards we hope to eventually complement or exceed the quantity found in the wild.  We’re continuing to root plants for distribution to friends, neighbors and interested parties. in Colorado and New Mexico.


We’ve been very encouraged by the interest people have shown in Santa Fe Cholla once they know about its status as an endangered plant here in NM.  We've taught classes and have planted Santa Fe Choola in many community gardens.


Can two people make a difference?  We sure are working on it!

We are now partnering with the NM EMNRD Forestry Division  in an effort to ensure the survival of this beautiful cactus.