Barrel Cactus Carnage at Kendrick Lake Gardens

Cactus carnage - freshly cut section off budding barrel cactus plant.

My beloved barrel cactus plants have been taking a hit this year by human hands. To see what has unfolded is truly criminal! It’s bad enough to have been witness to the “Cactus Wrangling” (theft of cactus plants) from the public gardens. But the further cactus carnage has been a blow beyond belief!

Never in a million years did I fathom such actions would be taking place. And as a flower photographer, it has ripped me to my core.

Becoming Aware of the Barrel Cactus Carnage

Spending as much time at the gardens photographing flowers offers opportunities to speak with the garden staff. Being on the front lines with my camera, you become VERY observant! So these encounters allowed me to express my concerns with regards to the cactus plant thefts.

After a particularly disturbing conversation, I would learn of what had been done to a big beautiful Claret Cup barrel Cactus plant. The plant was located behind the Police Station no less. Apparently a nefarious individual had been systematically HACKING AWAY AT SECTIONS OF THE PLANT! The thought being, he would get high by eating the plant.

Seriously? This is what humanity has come down to? Cutting away at cactus plants in an attempt to get high? I was floored!! So much damage was done to the plant it was questionable whether or not it would survive!

Barrel Cactus plant with multiple sections hacked off.
Big barrel cactus plant behind the Police Station with over 50 sections hacked off!

Needing to see first hand what had been done to this plant, I went to investigate. What I saw was crushing!! Walking around this barrel cactus plant I counted over 50 PIECES THIS SCUMBAG HAD CUT OFF! I was saddened for the plant but angry as hell that someone would do this or think they even had the right to do so!!

Justice Served: On an up note, I did learn this jerk had been caught AND FULLY PROSECUTED for his crime against the cactus plant.

Mother Nature Prevails

Cactus are very slow growers. They can be resilient. But the question remained, given the assault on this plant, would it survive? Would it even bloom? So began keeping tabs on this plant and photo-documenting the outcome of this cactus carnage…

Close-up of hacked off section of barre cactus plant.
Close up of section where cactus was cut – but now with red buds and flower blooms.
Blooming Claret Cup barrel cactus plant after being severely damaged.
Amazingly this Claret Cup barrel cactus plant lived to bloom another day!

Thankfully Mother Nature prevailed! As seen in the photo above, the plant made a miraculous comeback. I was in awe to see it so full of life 6 weeks later from its previous condition. I lost count of how many red buds and blooms there were. You could also see new green sections of growth.

Just When I Thought it Was Over…

Back over to Kendrick Xeriscape Gardens, I figured since all the White Sands Claret Cup plants had been stolen, the remaining barrel cactus plants would ideally be ok. Nothing could have been further from the truth!! I was in for another shocker as the assault on these barrel cactus became a new target!!

The worst part is as you can see in the photos below, they were hacking away at these plants just as they were beginning to bloom.

Was it the same individual who had redirected their efforts? Someone determined to get high at the cost of continuing to destroy public property? Or was there a second front coming at these plants? Say unscrupulous landscaping people? Those who would cut away at the plants in an attempt to propagate them and sell them? Or has it been both?

Either way, the carnage that’s been done to these cactus plants is both criminal AND heart-breaking!! For someone who has been photographing these plants for 4+ years, I’ve been crushed by what I’ve seen. The joy I usually have in going over to the gardens has become dread. What have they hacked away at today? Is there even anything left of these plants? 

The situation had become rather dire as the fate of these plants was grim. Once again I reached out to City of Lakewood on multiple fronts – including directly AND via Twitter. With photos, I wanted them to see what was going on. Their response was lack-luster. I was now beyond a concerned citizen/flower photography enthusiast. I was officially a PISSED OFF resident.

A Heavily Gloved Hand and a Sharp Knife

Even with its long white spines, sadly a cactus plant has little protection against a heavily gloved human hand and a sharp knife. I’d ben lying if I said I wasn’t exactly a fan of humans at the moment – especially ones that destroy local Nature for their own shitty agendas!

Since the City did not appear to be doing anything to protect these plants, I filed a Police Report – complete with photos so they could see first hand what was taking place. These are disgraceful acts which demonstrate a complete disregard and disrespect for Nature. No doubt the city has its hands full with other senseless criminal acts – but this has been the ongoing destruction of public property. The parties responsible need to be held accountable!

One of my biggest concerns was that my favorite little Claret Cup cactus plant would be an easy target to these criminals. Sadly, that’s EXACTLY what happened!

This little plant that I had watched grow would be decimated. There would be nothing left but stumps! The photo sequence below shows first hand how this unfolded. Section by section it was cut away. All those glorious red Claret Cup flowers gone!! This was such a happy little plant that bloomed so brightly! I am only too grateful for the photos I was able to capture before it suffered this awful fate!

Sequence of little barrel cactus cut away to nothing but stumps
Sequence of little Claret Cup plant from covered in buds, blooming and then reduced to stumps.

Protecting Nature

They say “every picture tells a story”. But this is not exactly the story I set out to tell with my photography. Shifting from a flower photographer to a photo-journalist is a hat I will gladly wear to protect what’s left of these plants. To bring attention to the cactus carnage that has been taking place. Perhaps to make more people aware?

Given this experience, I can only imagine what it must be like to be a wildlife photographer. Those who have seen so much destruction at the hands of poachers and reckless, asshole trophy hunters. Pristine landscapes now melting away from the devastating effects of climate change. A world divided and in denial.

Our worse yet, if Jacques Cousteau will still alive to see the horrendous condition of our oceans at the hands of man…

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