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Species of Concern

Thread made from paper builds tiny tributes for the San Rafael cacti. The San Rafael cacti, a native Utah plant, lie in peril, exemplified in this piece, “Species of Concern.” Appearing to be unraveling, they look endangered themselves, and fading quickly from view as their real-life counterparts.

Tiny cacti speckle the Utah desert. They decorate the landscape with their red, yellow, and orange blossoms, standing out against the desert brush.

San Rafael cacti are slow bloomers and even slower to adapt. Many do not live long enough to bloom. The surviving San Rafael Cacti persist. They endure flash floods, intense heat, and snow. These cacti are Utah locals and they have grown here for centuries. Now they’re in trouble.  These cacti have been on the endangered species list for over three decades and their condition is not getting better. Trampled or ripped from the ground their chance for survival is thin. These plants have lived next door to us for so long and now face extinction. Despite their population steadily decreasing they still fight to grow.

Artist Virginia Catherall brings attention to our forgotten neighbors in her piece “Species of Concern.” Knitted from paper thread these little cacti are as delicate as beautiful.

Catherall is a Utah local who creates non-traditional knitted pieces based on the Utah landscape. She spends weeks immersed in the outdoors for inspiration creating truly stunning pieces. Her delicate cacti are a marvel. Her piece is so dainty, it seems like a strong gust could carry away this intricate tribute to the southern Utah plants.

The knitted cacti represent a species that is fading from our landscape. They show us the part of Utah we tend to overlook.

Much like the real cacti, the knitted ones face peril. They are being cared for by the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts, but they are extremely delicate. Made of a light paper they have a short shelf life if not properly cared for, and tragically there is no safe space for the art and artifacts in our care.

If we do not act this art piece could move toward extinction like the San Rafael cactus. We risk the loss of the San Rafael cacti which have fought to live just as we have. We risk losing part of Utah that was here long before us. We risk losing something that could have been preserved.


Written by Michelle James

category: Landscape
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