This huge prickly pear caught my attention among the saguaros, barrel, staghorn and other varieties on display at the resort hotel where we stayed. I could only imagine the water bill at the hotel, as the rest of the grounds, around the pools and golf course, were well-watered lawns. I was there on business and only had a couple of brief chances to see how “real people” live in areas where watering is restricted or banned entirely. Their yards were more like the cactus gardens, with brownish gravel and succulents rather than grass. No need for a lawn mower …. but no inviting areas for little kids to play.
The beauty here is rough and harsh. I would have liked more time to explore, especially as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen West is here. I can see why Arizona is a favorite of snowbirds and those who vacation in the winter. I experienced the dry heat — over 102 degrees, yet not oppresive with humidity, as I’m used to in Louisiana.
Weeks later, on vacation in Peru, I learned how natives make cochineal dye from this type of cactus. They remove from prickly pears the whitish balls of scale insects, squish them, and use the dye for the vivid reds of their woven fabrics.