Red Claret Cups Cactus Flowers Bloom Brightly

red claret cups cactus flowers

My flower photography journey began while living in Santa Fe, NM. Little did I know at the time how much joy these bright Red Claret Cups cactus flowers would bring me. Or how much I’d love to photograph them. Here’s how it began…

Out of the Corner of My Eye…

I had not purchased my camera yet. Having never owned a DSLR camera, I was in the R & D phase of what to get – ultimately deciding on a Sony Mirrorless which was a very good decision given the direction the camera technology was moving.

So in this pre-camera purchase phase – with my love of the outdoors, I was exploring the Santa Fe area via hiking trails. I was no stranger to SF, but this was the first time actually living there.

It was late May and this day took me out hiking around La Tierra Trails in Santa Fe. Convenient as I could literally walk there from where I was living. Hot and dry. No surprise as it is a high desert. Spring would soon be be turning turning to summer. Yellow prickly pear cactus flowers were in bloom and dotted the trails. 

red claret cup flowers
Red Claret Cup cactus flowers along La Tierra hiking trail, Santa Fe, NM.

Then out of the corner of my eye I spotted something bright red set back off the trail. At first I thought it may be a package wrapper of some sort that had blown in. But further investigation off the path led me to this patch of bright red cactus flowers in full bloom. I was stunned and in awe of this majestic little plant!!

This cactus plant with it’s long spines that looked like some Medieval weapon had somehow given way to these incredible red flowers! Appearing so perfect, they almost looked fake.

I had my old dinky point and shoot camera with me so I took a few photos as a reference. At the time I had no idea what they were? So a Google search came to the rescue! It is after that search I discovered their name: Claret Cups. 

Having to Wait Another Year to Photograph Them with My New Camera

bright red claret cups flower
Bright red Claret Cups flower.

It would be another year – the following May, before I could actually photograph these spectacular red Claret Cup cactus flowers properly. In the interim, I hiked about the trails so I could note where these low lying cactus plants were for future reference.

I found far more than I was expecting which was great. And I noted every location. Thankfully they were in bloom at the time of my “recon mission” so it made it a bit easier to document for the following year. I kept my fingers crossed that the elements would provide for a good bloom cycle the following year – which they did!

Now that I knew what to look for, I even found several plants only steps away from one of the walking paths I’d often stroll along in the afternoon. These little red gems were closer than I realized!

In every instance I was blown away by the vibrant red flowers these cactus plants produced. How Nature can surprise us with the visuals she does is such a gift. And for me, cactus flowers are a beautiful oddity!

claret cups in Santa Fe, NM
Claret Cups blooming brightly off walking path in Santa Fe, NM.

Moving Back to Colorado – Would I Find Red Claret Cups There?

Living in Santa Fe came to an end quicker than I was expecting. Thankfully before I left, I was able to capture the blooming Claret Cups the following season. Now armed with my new camera!

Having developed such a love for photographing these little flowers, I wondered if I’d find them while living back to Colorado? As it turns out, the answer was a resounding YES!!

The local public Xeriscape garden – not far from my new CO living location, became my cactus flower photography sanctuary! However, I would not know this for sure until I was able to observe the seasonal bloom cycle. 

Red blooming claret cup flowers
Red Claret Cups blooming in Colorado Xeriscape garden.

It was a bit different. I was used to “foraging” for cactus flower photo ops. These however, had been more strategically planted. But the gardens contained not only red Claret Cups, but White Sands Claret Cups (a different variety), Cholla Cactus, Leopard Cholla, and lots of Prickly Pears too!

I also discovered the Denver Botanic Gardens has a nice cactus section. But the local gardens were MUCH closer and more convenient. 

I don’t have to wait for opening operating hours. Instead I can get out bright and early and stroll about to take photos. Thus meeting these beautiful blooms as the morning sun coaxes them to open.

I also get to see what kind of company they keep in other flowers that may be blooming along side them. A win win!

Photo Opportunities a Plenty!

red claret cups with wildflowers
Claret Cups with purple wildflowers in background.

My cactus flower photography opportunities have grown exponentially!

Having scouted the local gardens and now know where each Claret Cups cactus plant is. I found a few new ones too. One was relatively hidden in a less frequented area of the gardens. Perhaps it did not bloom last year? cuz it’s pretty hard to miss these bright red flowers.

Each season brings beautiful new blooms – even if they are short-lived. Such is the life of a cactus flower. This cactus in this photo keeps company with Blue Flax wildflowers – another fav to photograph. The contrast of their colors is striking.

It still blows my mind that something so harsh looking can create such beauty. Even if it is for such a short time 🙂

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