The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino harbors one of the world's largest collections of cacti--13 acres of 3,000 genera, 10,000 species and more than 80,000 plants. Joe Clements, 60, a former geologist and the garden's curator, has nurtured the Huntington's prickly varmints since 1978.
How often do you water?
About once a week during the summer. It's very difficult to tell how often to water these plants.
How long do cacti live?
Some succulents live for hundreds of years. We have a Cereus xanthocarpus brought in from South America at 6 tons in 1915, and it weighs 20 tons today.
Succulents are heavy in water.
How often do you get pricked?
A couple of times a day. You learn to stay away from some things--certain kinds of cactus, like cholla, are very nasty.
What was your first cactus?
A Euphorbia obesa, commonly called the basketball or baseball. I bought it, oh, boy, about 30 years ago, I think at Kmart.
If you could be any cactus, what would it be?
If I don't say the golden barrel, I'd be drummed out of the corps--we have a ton of them. I also like boojum trees--they look like upside-down carrots, with limbs that grow on the top. It's quite a weird plant.