by Ari Novy, PhD, President & CEO
I’d like to draw your attention to the Garden’s new logo, based on our native coastal prickly pear cactus (Opuntia littoralis). We put lots of thought into our rebranding and logo update. We love the dragon tree logo we used for years, which is beautiful and represents the ability of our growing climate to support diverse plant life from around the world. But we felt it was time to highlight a native plant with a strong presence at the Garden and significance for the region. After months of deliberation, our team chose the coastal prickly pear, because it is one of the most used native plants, both historically and currently, and it grows naturally at the Garden. Our coast prickly pear is native to Southern California and Baja California, where it grows in coastal sage scrub and our maritime chaparral. The plant plays a key role in local wildlife support, and it has historical significance to the Native Americans who have lived in Encinitas and the surrounding areas for more than 10,000 years. Traditionally, the Kumeyayy tribe, who named the plant ‘xapa’, used it for not only food, but for much more.
We continue to use the fruits and pads of this cactus in innovative and delicious cooking today. Nopal is the common name in Spanish for the prickly pear cactus and its pads. Nopales are generally sold fresh, cleaned of spines, sliced or diced, and served raw on the spot. The pads have a light, slightly tart flavor, like green beans, and a crisp, gelatinous texture. I love tacos with nopales, which can be found at several local taco shops. The purplish-red fruit of the nopal cactus, called the tuna in Spanish and the prickly pear in English, is also edible. Traditionally, when gathering the fruits from this cactus species, the Kumeyaay consumed some of the fruit immediately, eating the pulp with or without seeds, or making it into a drink. Today, everyone from local residents to international culinary masters use the fruit to make candy and even flavor ice cream.
I love the way our coast prickly pear looks. You can find beautiful specimens throughout the Garden, but there are some especially lovely ones in our Native Plants, Native Peoples Garden; California Gardenscape; and Overlook natural area. Sometimes called the sprawling prickly pear, this prickly pear cactus has short stems and a habit of growing close to the ground. The leafless stems store water to carry it through drought. The thin pads are covered in clusters of yellowish spines up to 4 cm long. The Kumeyaay traditionally used these spines to create tattoos. The red-tinged yellow flowers bloom April through June, but the plant is beautiful all year round.
Our new logo has three fruits, which represent the three main areas of focus for SDBG, as outlined in our new strategic plan. They are:
- Physical gardens and onsite visitor experience: SDBG’s gardens, horticultural collections, facilities, staff and volunteers together showcase a dynamic, living public laboratory — one that is creating new understanding, preserving plants, educating and sharing knowledge, and providing extraordinary experiences for all.
- Education and learning: SDBG empowers people of all backgrounds and ages to follow their curiosity, and improve their lives and our world through learning about plants and nature.
- Science and conservation: SDBG works in conservation horticulture, botany, and applied plant sciences to address our biggest local and global issues — from food security and climate change to land management and home gardening.
In short, our new logo represents our vision for SDBG as a magnificent botanic garden that empowers people of all backgrounds, ages, and interests to improve their lives and our world. As individual visitors, volunteers, staff and supporters, we are the SDBG community. Together, we all garden to create, share and apply plant wisdom in our world.