When the Cactus Plants You Look Forward to Photographing Suddenly Go Missing

Stolen cactus plant from Kendrick Lake Gardens

Cactus plants take time to mature. And the right conditions usually need to prevail in order for them to actually bloom. This patient anticipation can be incredibly rewarding for photographers AND those who enjoy marveling in their beauty.

So when the cactus plants you look forward to photographing suddenly go missing, it’s heartbreaking. Stealing catalytic convertors from people’s cars has been bad enough. But STOLEN CACTUS PLANTS out of Kendrick Lake Gardens reaches a new low! This sad truth has been my experience starting in early May, 2022.

FYI: the photo above is one of the actual cactus plants that went missing. It’s that of a White Sands Claret Cup and was literally stolen three days after the photo was taken!

Kendrick Lake Park and Gardens

Kendrick Lake PArk and Gardens wooden sign
Kendrick Lake Park and Gardens sign in Lakewood, CO.

Kendrick Lake Park and Gardens is a local park in Lakewood, CO. It’s a no doubt a favorite to the many who walk the paved, mile loop around the lake. There are benches, big trees offering shade and a wonderful play area for children. It’s a highly utilized park for sure.

In addition to the lake is the xeric gardens. Considering the volume of people who circle the lake for its obvious fitness value, few seem to indulge their senses in the beauty of the gardens. For a photographer, that suits me just fine. And it’s where many of my photos have been taken since moving back to CO from Santa Fe, NM.

The gardens are filled with a variety of flowering plants which makes it a seasonal bounty for flower photography! Discovering these gardens had cactus plants was a treat. It’s something I knew I’d miss moving from NM.

In Santa Fe, I had scouted out the local Claret Cups, Prickly Pears and Cholla Cactus plants. The great thing is that I did not even have to drive to get to them. A walk or hike from my digs was all that was necessary. I love getting to a photography destination without needing a car!

Matured and Covered in Red Buds

White Sands Claret Cup cactus plant covered in buds.
White Sands Claret Cup cactus plant covered in red buds – stolen three days after this photo was taken!

On May 6th I had gone to the gardens to check on the development of the local cactus plants. I knew some would be getting ready to bloom. The photo above was taken on this day. It’s a cactus plant whose maturing process I had been observing for the last three years. This year it was covered in little red buds and ready to bloom forth for the first time. It was definitely going to be one of the earlier bloomers in the cactus plant realm at the gardens. I was SO excited in anticipation of what would be beautiful.

However, my excitement became squashed. What I would see only three days later was an empty hole where this plant had been. The cactus plant had been stolen! Forcibly removed in its prime by some nefarious individual! I was angry, shocked and heartbroken 🙁

Enpty whole from stolen cactus plant.
Paying homage to the stolen cactus plant, I created a little circle of stones in its honor. It will be missed!

More Stolen Cactus Came Days Later!

Coral colored flowers on White Sands Claret Cup plant.
Coral colored flowers on blooming cactus plant.

As I took in the loss of the stolen cactus plant, I ventured over to another White Sands Claret Cup plant that I had familiarized myself with.

After wandering these gardens for the last few years, I knew where all these plants were. Thankfully this one was still there and happily blooming!!

With its coral colored flowers, I was thrilled to take photos of its latest bloom. This plant blooms earlier than others and it was right on schedule with more buds yet to open!

Taking close-up photos of blooming cactus is a favorite of mine. But it’s a “prickly affair”. The long white spines are a reminder that you have to keep a respectable distance whether you like it or not!

Empty hole where cactus plant was stolen.
Empty hole left from stolen cactus plant at Kendrick Lake Gardens.

My excitement for this blooming cactus plant would be short lived. As you can see in the photo above, this plant was also stolen only two days later from taking the blooming photos. Again I was heartbroken – although more pissed off and angry!!

Who the heck would steal blooming cactus plants out of a public gardens?!! It’s certainly no small task. Uprooting these plants while in their bloom cycle is like severing an artery! Would they even survive after such a brutal displacement?!

Contacting the City of Lakewood About the Thefts

Fearing for the future fate of the remaining Claret Cup plants in the gardens, I reached out to the City of Lakewood. I felt it important that they know the beautiful cactus plants in Kendrick Lake Gardens were being stolen. Sadly I would learn that it’s not the first time plants have gone missing from this public garden. They did not specify if cactus plants had gone missing before?

Blooming cactus plant at Kendrick Lake Gardens
One of the stolen cactus plants from Kendrick Lake Gardens. You will be missed beautiful cactus!

Since then, I’ve gone through and photo-documented all of the remaining Claret Cup cactus plants. These too are getting ready to bloom and are covered with their crimson, red buds. One can only hope that these beautiful plants will not be disrupted and stolen in the throws of their glorious blooming flowers 🙂


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