Explore Palm Springs: Celebrate the Cactus

Chester “Cactus Slim” and Patricia Moorten brought new reverence to the desert plant with their botanical garden.

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Chester “Cactus Slim” and his wife Patricia initiated their love for cacti in Palm Springs.

Spring in the desert is spectacular, but summer is even more impressive for the cacti, trees, and scrubs that survive it. Wise and observant desert dwellers had special reverence for the plant species found in this harsh environment.

The village of Palm Springs took its name from the indigenous palms, found in the ravines of the surrounding mountains. Not only did the native California fan palm signal the presence of water to the Cahuilla people, they used the fruit for food and the fronds for weaving and roofing.

The original summer survivor in the desert is, of course, the cactus. Reverence for its diversity was elevated to an art form by Chester “Cactus Slim” and Patricia Moorten. Starting in the 1930s, the Moortens famously saved cacti in the path of road construction for use as ornamentals in gardens. They also collected unusual specimens from all over the desert southwest and Baja Mexico, bringing them home to Palm Springs.

A botanist trained at University of Southern California, Patricia published her classic book, Desert Plants for Desert Gardens, much before the idea of using native plants in a sustainable way became the norm

There is a multitude of ways to Explore Palm Springs, which marks 80 years in 2018. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring Palm Springs history. The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place corresponds with today.

The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive.

Visit for more information.