It was Spring 2020 in the White Tank Mountains. Even on our hikes, we were social distancing, single file, group photos taken in the line we’d formed as we hiked down the trail instead of gathering around a single person to grab a “group selfie.” The cactus flowers were plentiful, the day warm and sunny and I had plenty of opportunity to capture those rarely seen flowering cactus. One family of cacti, the Cholla has several varieties. The two that I’ve found most hard to distinguish are the Staghorn and the Buckhorn. For this post, I ended up looking for a definitive source to describe the difference here. The short synopsis of the difference is that they “are sometimes hard to distinguish.” They have similar blossoms, but the most obvious distinction is in the fruit. Well there you go. I’ve never seen a fruit on either variety.
The article goes on to point out that another difference is the number of spines per areole. The Staghorn typically at 7-10 spines, the Buckhorn more numerous at up to 25 spines. Looking at the photo above, it would appear this plant has more than 10 spines per areole. Looking at the original photo in an area cropped out of the image above, I found one areole that clearly had more than 15 spines. That makes it a Buckhorn (at least in my layman’s opinion anyway.) Whatever, they both produce beautiful blossoms.
About the photo: I am still learning all the features of the Samsung S20U camera system and when hiking with the group, I opted to use auto mode so as not to delay the group while I fiddled with the cellphone. Bad juju. So the camera thought the best exposure for this image was f/3.5, 1/611 sec (what?), and 25 ISO. That is a weird shutter speed. The original image left the flowers a bit underexposed, in my opinion. I used Lightroom to brighten it slightly, made the other basic settings like cropping and tonal adjustments, then sent it off to Luminar Flex for final tweaks, increasing the microcontrast some more (structure), and using the Accent AI Filter work its magic. I don’t know what it does, but I almost always use the AI adjustment as it invariably improves the image (if I don’t push the control too far to the right.) As usual, this image can be viewed enlarged by selecting it (in most browsers.)