This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In the following paper I will try and give the readers of the Gardeners' Monthly a short history of the wandering of a cactus collector in the spring of 1883. Crossing the rim of the great basin on the 29th day of March under a cloudless sky, I drove to Swaaps Springs in the lower end of Link valley, where I camped for the night in a heavy rain storm. On the morning of the 30th, I took a pack horse and went into the western hills and collected a few seed of Juniperus Californica var. Utah-ense, and one hundred Mamillaria species, which I safely stored away, and started for Johnson, a small settlement on the Southern border of Utah. For the first ten miles the rain poured, and as the evening drew on to night the snow came down until it was two inches deep, when I camped in a patch of very wet sage brushes in Johnson canon, under the lee of a ledge of trap. After searching the ledge for some distance for a dry stick, I was rewarded by finding a rat's nest composed of dry sticks, corn-cobs, bones, and a little of everything else that was portable in the neighborhood.
Out of this I soon had a fire, made me a cup of tea, attended to the wants of my team, and crawled into my wagon, wet, cold and despondent, but nature soon triumphed over care, and I was asleep after two days' travel, thirty-five miles from my starting point.
The next day's travel was without interest, unless stopping every few rods to push the mud out of my wagon wheels, and night found me at the house of my friend, Mr. Wm. Lewis, by a comfortable fire with the savory smell of boiling coffee and fried bacon and eggs coming in from the kitchen. Supper was soon over, horses attended to, and to bed.
April the first broke fine and clear as an April day, with a heavy hoar-frost on the ground. In a box in the door yard I found a dead specimen of Echinocactus Xeranthemoides, which I sent to Dr. Engleman, the only specimen living or dead that has ever come under the eye of that lover of nature, and probably the only one ever seen by a botanist. Plants collected on the 30th put out, I started for Pahriah to collect cacti. At that point but little of interest on this trip until within two miles of the settlement I came on to Fallugia para-doxa with a single flower on it. Berberis Fre-montii was in its beauty, covered with a yellow fragrant flower. Shepherdia rotundifolia and Co-wania Mexicana find a home here, but neither was in flower. Arriving at Pahriah I found that small hamlet feeling much better than I left the horticulturists at Kanab, as they had a partial crop of fruit, of apples, pears, peaches and plums left, while Kanab had lost all. Two days spent at this place collecting Echinocactus Whipplei in the rain, and I was ready to retrace my steps to Kanab, and on my return trip I turned aside from the main road to Navajoe wells to collect Cereus Engelmannii, but they were very scarce here.
I found growing on the hard sand rock with sand enough only to cover its roots, a single bunch of Ranunculus Ander-sonii, the second plant that I have ever seen in flower. The Navajoe wells are two holes dug out of the sandstone, six feet deep, that afford a very small supply of poor water, but it is cool and quite a treat after being twenty-four hours without water. A halt in Kanab long enough to put out my find, and I start out into the wildest, dryest country that this deponent ever visited.
Two days' travel brought me at ten o'clock at night into Kanab canon, at the mouth of the Buckskin. Water keg empty. It was dark, and my prospecting for water not proving a success, I went to bed rather lonesome, without any certainty of finding Slido Springs, which was reported to be the only water in the canon.
When daylight had come after a long night, I started out for Slido Springs, but the search was fruitless, and I, in retracing my steps, came to the wash in the canon a few rods below my wagon, and found water; but such water! It is surprising that some energetic pill man has not started a factory here, as all the ingredients for a first-class cathartic are in this little stream. As it appeared very difficult to climb the ledges of red sandstone directly west of my camp (and the cactus grows only on the west side of the canon), I went down the canon two or three miles to where the water sunk in the sand, and made my camp. I found Ptelea angustifolia growing here in great abundance, and as it was in flower, I collected some very fine specimens for the herbarium. I also found a very thorny tree here of branching, straggling habit. As it had not put out its leaves, I was unable to decide as to what it was, but from a bunch of dry leaves I found, I concluded it was a locust or mimosa. In a niche of the rock I found a Cercis occidentalis, the Pacific Judas tree, in full leaf and flower; flowers purple and abundant. This was the largest specimen that I saw in the canon, and was over twenty-five feet in height.
Junipers, pinion pines, oaks, cottonwoods, and other brush filled out the list of timbers growing in the canon, and on the benches alongside of it; but cactus was what I was on the hunt for. After pressing a few fine specimens of such things as were in flower, I went for the western bench and i ledges, where I soon found Echinocactus cylindri-cus, most of them large, and such as would draw a smile from the lover of the beautiful. I will not undertake to give a minute description of them, but that your readers may have some understand- J ing of what they were like, I will say that I counted thirty-three in one clump of sizes varying from a breakfast plate to an egg, and all packed together into such a compact, almost round ball, that they could not, to all appearance, have been put together more solid under the stokes of a trip hammer, and this covered with round, straw-red spines three inches long. I measured one of the largest specimens and found that it was twenty-eight inches high, and twenty-seven inches in circumference. I collected what I could find of this variety that were small enough to ship to my customers and friends, but found plants of curious size very scarce.
Opuntia Missouriensis were very abundant, and on this bench I found one Mamillaria phellosperma, or fish-hook cactus, the rarest species to be found in this country. After a two days' search for Echinocactus xeranthemoides without finding it, I broke camp and started down the canon, hoping to find the dripping springs at which it was said some very fine Adiantums were growing. After riding a short distance I came on to Nolina erumpans, and until Dr. Engelmann told me it was in cultivation, I was much elated over it, believing that it was new. It was certainly new to me.
I had gone but a short distance when I discovered on a ledge, a hundred or more feet above my head, a bunch of yellow flowers. After a little search I found a crevice in the rock worn by the water; up this I crawled, finding on my way a very fine bunch of Notholaena tenere; and upon gaining the summit, I found myself on a table of red sandstone of many acres extent, with here and there, where the sand had caught in the crevices, Physa-ria Newberryii, which I quickly put into my plant press, and after a search for cactus, crept down into the wash and resumed my journey, which I found difficult and sometimes dangerous. Coming out on to a small bottom around which the wash swept in a gentle curve, I found Opuntia chlorotica in abundance, very large specimens four and five feet high and as many feet in diameter through their tops. There was another very fine Opuntia growing here with thick, oval-shaped joints, from a foot to fifteen inches in length, growing one on the end of another, until they extended on the ground for several feet. These would make fine ladder plants in a greenhouse. Opuntias arc not admired nor looked after.
Of course the little ones are not striking, but who that has ever seen one of the above could pass it without admiring it? The person that could would certainly be no lover of cactus.
Failing after a half day's travel to find the very one that I wanted, I retraced my steps to my camp and spent the next two days in collecting Cereus Engelmanni, Echinocereus phceniceus and Nolina erumpans, and packing them to be hauled over a rough and. rocky road, I retraced my steps, passing through a grove of very large Cow-ania Mexicana. I reached Kanab after an absence of nine clays.
Packing plants consumed two days. I was off for the West, knowing that a fine and probably unde-scribed species of cactus grew about Pipo and Cottonwood Springs. I stopped and made a collection at these points and found that my conjecture was right, as Dr. Engelmann has named it Echinocac-tus Sileri. It is a very fine Mamillaria-looking plant, growing on a gypsum soil, which is something very rare for cactus; as the other varieties in this country all grow on sand or gravel, except Mamillaria vivipara var. Neo-Mexicana and a species which grows on clay soil usually.
May-day I left the Clara settlement for the Beaver Dam Mountains to finish up my collection, and at night found myself amongst the Joshuas (Yucca brevifolia) in a rain storm. Here I found Echinocactus Lecontii, Echinocactus Johnsonii and Mamillaria chlorantha, and soon had them safely stowed away in my wagon and was on the return trip.
There were but two plants on this part of the journey that were very attractive. Opuntia rutila, with its large purple flowers, and Audibertia in-cana, which was in full flower. While on this part of the journey I found two small shrubs of that very rare plant or bush, Patalonyx Parryi; and growing in the crevices of the rocks, I found a hard-wood Pentstemon which I have learned has been named P. Sileri; neither of these plants were in flower, and I did not get a specimen into my plant press.