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It started as a hobby with one plant & blossomed to 200,000 plants

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POSTED May 26, 2012 1:24 a.m.

RIPON – Bill Poot knows where everything is at his Ripon nursery.

And that’s impressive considering that he has more than 200,000 plants – all varieties of cactus and succulents from around the world – scattered across the sprawling one-acre campus.

Whether it’s something like an Argentinean variety that blossoms annually with upwards of 300 flowers, a common aloe vera plant or an extremely rare plant worth thousands of dollars, Poot can walk to the nook or cranny or greenhouse rack where it grows and talk about what makes it unique.

It’s the kind of knowledge that comes after more than three decades of collecting, cataloging and growing varieties that range from the spiny and spiky saguaros that most people associate with the cactus plant to the Brazilian uebelmannia pectinifera – a crown-like variety that happens to be the favorite of both he and wife Roelyn.

But it all started with one plant.

“It was a good hobby – it was something that didn’t take a whole lot of space at first,” Poot said. “We started with a little greenhouse and moved here with the dream of becoming a business. It grew a lot in between there.”

It was a friend – John Van de Pol – that first introduced him to the world of cacti after showing him some of the entries that he would take with him to Turlock for the Stanislaus County Fair. Living in Patterson at the time, Poot didn’t give the peculiar looking things a second look.

But through the course of his friendship with Van de Pol, he ended up with his first cactus.

The love affair wasn’t immediate and it wasn’t fast. They are, after all, plants that can grow just an inch a year.

But Poots knowledge about the plants began to grow exponentially. Unique species started to pique his interest. And when his wife Roelyn first saw the blossoms that could flower during the right season, it prompted her own passion to start, and the couple were off and running.

Poot’s Cactus Nursery was well on its way.

“When I got to see the bloom – how structured it was – it got me much more interested,” said Roelyn Poot. “Some of the flowers that you see out there are beautiful and when I see a customer that doesn’t realize how large or how bright they can be – that’s what I love about doing this. To see God’s hand in all of this is just wonderful.”

The prime location – just outside of Manteca on East Highway 120 – also sets the business up with a steady stream of warm-weather customers.

When the Yosemite National Park crowd is making their trek to view the magnificence of Half Dome and El Capitan, they’re often perplexed by the bright sign and immaculately manicured cactus garden on the side of the road, pulling in to take a closer look.

Most end up going home with something. And of those that buy something – the plants make excellent additions to apartment patios – most end up returning again until they run out of space.

Then there are those that remember the location from the movies.

With funding provided by Antone Raymus a pair of Manteca filmmakers utilized a team of young students as a film crew and show a movie entirely in Manteca – with a fictional story that centered on a troubled teen that found his center while performing community service out at the unique business.

The movie can be viewed for free at

“That was a lot of fun. They were out here for a couple of days shooting – they were even out here at night,” Roelyn Poot said. “And they were great – we just went to bed and they cleaned up after themselves when they left.

“Some people still remember that.”

Poot’s Cactus Nursery is located at 17229 E. Highway 120. The business is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They’re closed Sunday. For additional information call (209) 599-6432 or visit



209 staff reporter


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