April 1, 2010

Cactus at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

It was a visual feast at the Desert Pavilion at the Conservatory of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I love looking at cactus and succulents; their strong clear forms are like expressive sculpture, and they have a wide array of shapes: the leaves and spines seem to be created by a wackily inventive artist, playing with varying geometries.

From large dramatic forms to smaller and more complex ones, they can be forbidding or amusing.

The spines on the cactus above look like horned insects (I'm thinking of the tomato hornworm) marching up the wide stalk.

And here, the gracefully spiky thorns array themselves like the corps de ballet around the prima ballerina: a small red horned protuberance, probably a flower, which sits jauntily atop the slender arc of green.

The geometry of the golden section is very evident in the swirl of this cactus. I believe that most of the cactus display this pattern of growth, which I wrote about in this post and that is what makes them so engaging to look at, and so beautiful.

As for the plant below, I won't comment on it lest I get silly. Just enjoy.


  1. Your photos are always terrific...this time I am even more affected by yr words: so poetic. I have found that with a number of visual artists, they are wonderful writers too because they are free with the words, not as bound as in their primary art.
    I am a cactus groupie too.

  2. Thanks so much, Julie, for your comment on my photos, and especially my writing. I love the short form of writing for a blog, which works so well coupled with images. And I'm happy there's at least one reader who loves cactus as I do.

  3. Another cactus appreciator here Altoon!
    Nature as masterful designer...so much geometry and stimulating form to be found with these specimen. The last image - the colour for one is really something.

    My parents had a cactus collection when I was a young child. Ones we learnt to avoid the spikes it was always curious to see what was happening...and those odd moments of flowering - some that would flower for a night once a year I think!

    Thanks for the glimpse form your wonderful visit!

  4. Sophie, how wonderful to have grown up with a cactus collection; it must have been fascinating to watch as a child.

  5. Love your cactus shots, Altoon! I just got back from cactus land and will be posting some of the shots on my blog in the coming days.

  6. Is this cactus really called prima ballerina cactus