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Master Gardener Journal  


B O O K   R E V I E W



A Cactus Odyssey: Journeys in the Wilds of Bolivia, Peru and Argentina

James D. Mauseth,
Roberto Kiesling,
and Carlos Ostolaza
Timber Press, 2002.
306 pages, $39.95

Cacti... you see them every day here in the Southwest, but how much do you really know about them? Do you know what makes a cactus a cactus as opposed to, say, a euphorbia? Are you aware that some exotic species have developed air roots, or that there are cacti that are easily mistaken for jade plants, delicate vines, Spanish moss- even snakes? We all know cacti grow in the desert, but did you know they're also found in rainforests, at alpine elevations, in grasslands, and along the seashore?

A Cactus Odyssey is the work of three field biologists who were introduced to one another at a 1986 meeting of the International Society for Succulent Plant Study. T h ey went on to become friends, and over a period of fifteen years they traveled much of the Americas together seeking out, photographing, and cataloguing rare specimens. The book chronicles one 5,000-mile journey the trio made through Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina, where they dealt with flash floods, altitude sickness, and the threat of prowling jaguars to reach remote areas where seldom-studied species were rumored to be growing.

The authors have done a wonderful job of staying in the background and allowing the land, the weather, the local inhabitants, and the native plant life to take center stage. What's more, they've included more than 190 high quality color photographs to let readers know what they were seeing as they traveled from country to country.

Whether you're a lifelong desert dweller or a recent transplant, if you've been wanting to learn more about these interesting plants, you'll find A Cactus Odyssey a good mix: a delightfully painless education in cactus biology, as well as an adventuresome travelogue. Who knows? You might even be persuaded to venture down a new path in your own garden by the time you finish it!



Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated January 25, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopa-hort@ag.arizona.edu 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092