Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published August 3rd 2015
A Collection of Crazy Cacti
You'll not guess where we found the third largest cactus nursery in the world and the largest in the southern hemisphere. Is it Sydney or perhaps Brisbane? No. Adelaide or Perth? Indeed it is in not in any capital city at all but tucked away in Outback New South Wales, in the eclectic opal mining town of Lightning Ridge.
There are over 2,500 plants in Bevan's Cactus Nursery, some of them showcased in the car park. One of many poetic and humorous signs displayed in the garden beds tells us:
'There were no cactus plants on Australia's fair shores Till the white man came with seedlings and spores.'
Most of the plants are native to the Americas and have been grown from seeds collected around the world. Others have been transplanted from elsewhere enabling the gardens which began in 1966 to display plants that are over 100 years old. The oldest plant is almost 150 years old.
Some of the many garden beds at Bevan's Cactus Nursery. (Image by Roger Marien.)
The neat garden beds are edged with rocks and circled by paths. We meander along looking at an amazing variety of cactus, all of which are well labelled. There is an abundance of Golden Ball also rather uncharitably called Mother-in-Laws Cushion. These long-lived spherical, ribbed plants can reach a height of up to one metre. They display small yellow flowers around the crown but only after 20 years or so.
Elsewhere is Old Man Cactus, a tall columnar cactus native to Mexico, which is covered with white hairs like those of an old man and appears to be fluffy, not what you'd expect of a cactus. Then there is the blue-green multi-branched Neopbuxbaumia Scopha, nearly 40 years old, which now stands three to four metres but can grow as tall as 13 metres.
We see plants native to Guatemala, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru and Arizona. A mound of Owls Eyes Cactus sits on the garden bed like a pile of balls, its dense white spines laying flat on the plant. The Creeping Devil or Snake Plant lies on the ground and as one end grows the other dies. There is of course Prickly Pear, a common cactus with a red pear shaped flower which can be found growing along the roadside in some parts of Queensland. There are also the clumped Spirals of New York and the tall Organ Pipes Dragon, as well as Fruit and Aloe Vera, over 40 species of Bougainvillea and so very much more.
If the gardener within you is itching to start your own collection, there is a good selection of plants for sale.
In a small shop displaying Bevan's Opal Collection you can browse opals from across Australia and perhaps indulge yourself by purchasing an opal of your own.
Bevan's Cactus Nursery is off Bald Hill Road, in Lightning Ridge. If you are doing the Car Door Tours it is Blue Car Door 7. They can be contacted on (02) 6829 2778 or via their website. The gardens are open 9am to 5pm daily and admission is $10 for adults and free for children.