Bring a bit of the desert to your abode with Hot Cactus, a tiny shop in Echo Park precariously packed with the prickly plants. Each piece has personality, like the tall ocotillo, whose spiny tendrils reach to the heavens, or the fuzzy-looking cholla, whose spines you'd want to pet, if it wouldn't send you to the hospital. Cacti are stark and tough, but once you get to know one, it makes a good friend. They don't need much, just an occasional sip of water and a big drink of sunlight, and they'll stick with you for years. Cactus collectors are a rare breed, too. Co-owner John Morera is a cactus man who began in the plant world by collecting bonsai trees. Like the wind-twisted gnarls of those Japanese trees, cacti too have an almost sculptural form that's eye-catching whether they're guarding the front yard or occupying a corner of your home. Morera and his compatriots sometimes travel long distances deep into the desert to acquire these pieces from various cactus collectors and farms along the Mexican border. And their adventures yield great results, bringing unusual specimens from the most arid areas to the urban expanses of our city.

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