|Picture Notes: These pictures (Figs. 01-03) of mature Golden Barrel Cacti were taken on 03/18 and 04/15/2010 at the Botanical Cactus Garden at Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory in Las Vegas.|
|Description: Echinocactus grusonii, commonly called the Golden Barrel Cactus, Golden Ball or, amusingly, Mother-in-Law's Cushion, belongs to the small genus Echinocactus, which together with the related genus Ferocactus, are commonly referred to as barrel cacti. Growing as a large roughly spherical globe, after many years, it may eventually reach over 3 feet in height. Large plants attain a size of over 2 feet across, and may remain single or produce plantlets at the side to form a clump. There may be up to 35 pronounced ribs in mature plants, though they are not evident in young plants, which may have a knobby appearance. Their flowers are also golden yellow in color, emerging from the large patch of wool at the center of the plant. They are produced a few at a time over a long period during the growing season in the warm months of the year. Note: Younger Golden Barrels do not look similar to the mature ones. The sharp spines are long, straight or slightly curved, and various shades of yellow or, occasionally, white. Small yellow flowers appear in summer around the crown of the plant, but only after twenty years or so.|
Barrel cactus species have a lifespan ranging between 50 to 100 years, but some plants are known to survive for as long as 130 years. One extraordinary aspect of barrel cactus adaptations is their roots. The root system is designed to ensure that the plant is able to absorb every single drop of water available in the arid desert conditions. The specially designed roots also help the plant in fixation in desert soil, owing to which it is also seen growing on slopes as well as the walls of canyons. They come from Queretaro State in Mexico, but have become very scarce in the wild due to inundation of much of their natural habitat.
|On 04/11/2010 I drive out to an area on the valley’s floor called the Devil’s Golf Course. The surface n this area surely provides one of the most fascinating natural textures in existence. It was so named after a line in the 1934 National Park Service guide book to Death Valley National Monument, which stated that " Only the devil could play golf " on its surface, due to a rough texture from the large Halite salt crystal formations.|
|Background: Lake Manly once covered the valley to a depth of more than 30 feet. The Halite salt crystals consists of the minerals that were dissolved in the lake's water and left behind in the Badwater Basin as the lake evaporated. With an elevation several feet above the valley floor at Badwater, this area remains dry, allowing weathering processes to sculpt the salt there into complicated forms. Through exploratory holes drilled by the Pacific Coast Borax Company, prior to Death Valley becoming a national monument in 1934, it was discovered that the salt and gravel beds of the valley floor in this location extend to a depth of more than 1,000 feet; later studies suggest that in places the depth ranges up to 9,000 feet.|