Thorough, various, informative, invitingly designed, and personalized by Holmes' accounts of her own experiences with cacti--from poking about in the early-morning desert, where she has encountered a hawk's nest, woodpecker holes, and a gila monster among the cacti, to serving Connecticut friends a several-course cactus dinner. (Recipes for similar dishes are included.) Holmes brings readers into the picture in her early explanations of how cacti have adapted to desert conditions: ""If you lived where it rarely rained, how do you suppose you would get water? Perhaps you would design [a collector] . . . build a wide catch-basin. . . build canals and channels. . . . The typical cactus functions in just this way."" Neither voluminous nor crammed, the book nevertheless contains a discussion of the contributions of cacti to the desert ecology (and the effect of human practices, such as coyote control, on cactus); a description of cactus parts and their functions; a rundown on distinguishing features of cacti in general; descriptions of 14 different cacti with a facing full-page illustration for each; a chapter on human uses (a cactus is less handy as an emergency drinking-water supply than our folklore would have it); a guide to raising cacti at home; and appendices on locating cacti and an cactus classification. Attractive, interesting, and useful.