Cacti and succulents honored at Pima Prickly Park Spring Expo

April 10, 2013 |

The beautiful cacti and succulent plants that define our southern Arizona landscape will be celebrated in a Spring Expo sponsored by Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society at Pima Prickly Park, Sunday, April 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The 9 acre park is located at 3500 W. River. Entrance to the park and the Spring Expo is free to the public.

According to Spring Expo’s coordinator, Joe Frannea, “There are two major segments to the Spring Expo. We want to bring people to the park to see what we have here. And we want to give them an opportunity to buy cacti and succulent plants, to see the exhibits, and to learn more about the desert.”

Visitors will have an opportunity to walk the park’s trails, and to learn more about the colorful and unique native and adapted non-native plants in the park. Frannea says that there will also be a sales area during the Spring Expo where plant lovers can purchase cacti and succulents as well as products made from cacti such as jellies and jams.  The educational exhibits will not only be about the plants, but also include information on desert animals and insects, venomous lizards and snakes and poison control, water harvesting in the desert, and more.

Pima Prickly Park is a joint project of the Tucson Cacti and Succulent Society and Pima County Natural Resources Parks and Recreation department. It is open to the public free of charge from dawn to dusk.  The park was dedicated in September 2012.

Frannea explains that Pima Prickly Park came about when the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society joined forces with Pima County Natural Resources Parks and Recreation department. “Members of the Society had been looking for a site where we could have a lot of cactus, where we could see how they do in our habitat. The county had some land that had been a deep gravel pit where building was not suitable. The county wanted to restore natural habitat.” The county started developing the park a few years ago, but resources were limited. So the Society partnered with the parks department and signed a 15-year operating agreement with the county.”

Since then the Society has worked to develop the park’s trail system and to create special cactus and succulent gardens such as the ocotillo forest, agave forest, and hummingbird and butterfly gardens. Society volunteers are currently working on a cholla maze. A highlight is Saguarohenge where several large saguaro cacti are planted in a conformation reminiscent of Stonehenge in England. Frannea says Saguarohenge is intended as “a place to rest and reflect.”

Volunteer groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and student honor societies work in the park, too. “We put in a hummingbird garden and partnered with Tucson’s Audubon Society to decide on plants and design. We worked together,” Frannea says.

Future projects are planned. “Because we are all volunteers and have limited funds, it could take only a few months or a year to develop an area of the park,” says Frannea. “We’re thinking it will probably take 10 years for the park to mature.”

A factor in how fast the plantings go, Frannea says, “depends on the rescue program.” He refers to those cacti rescued from sites where buildings or roads are being constructed and where the cacti would otherwise be destroyed. Some rescued cacti will be available for sale at the Expo.

“This really has been an excellent working relationship with the county and a nonprofit group,” Frannea says. “We know the county didn’t have money, but it have a great education program. The primary focus of the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society is education. So Prickly Park is an opportunity to do something for the community. The park is a great asset to Pima County and a great project for us to showcase our plants,” Frannea adds.

To learn more about Pima Prickly Park, go to the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society’s Prickly Park page at   There you will find a detailed map of the park’s trails and gardens as well as some great photos of park project development and information about the Spring Expo.



Category: Arts, Community, RECREATION