The cactus controversy in New Mexico has been settled at last. Those "pesky saguaros," as the Albuquerque Journal dubbed the plant that bears the state flower of Arizona, have been nixed from this year's International Balloon Fiesta poster.

Albuquerque's hot-air balloon festival, scheduled for Oct. 1 to 10, is one of New Mexico's most popular events, so the last thing the locals wanted on the souvenir poster was the stovepipe-shaped cactus. "For the geographically challenged, saguaros are indigenous to the Sonoran desert of Arizona and Mexico," the Journal proclaimed on its front page. "They don't grow in New Mexico." The subject then became Topic A on local radio talk shows and TV newscasts.

"We got a tremendous number of e-mails: not exactly death threats but 'how dare you slap us in the face?' Everybody was so offended all of a sudden," said Bud Brimberg, owner of ProCreations Publishing Co., which has produced and sold the festival's souvenir posters since 1979. "It's amazing, the outpouring over plant matter."

Created by artist Downe Burns, the poster showed a cowboy on horseback surveying saguaro-and-sagebrush-dotted terrain. The new official poster shows the same image sans the saguaros.

However, both posters will be sold: one as an official souvenir of the hot-air balloon fiesta and the other, with the saguaro, as a ProCreations item on its Web site. "It's not accurate, but it's valid," Brimberg said. "It reflects time and place, with a sense of fun and allegory."

-- Sylvia Moreno

Albuquerque took issue with the official poster for its International Balloon Fiesta because the original, left, depicted nonnative saguaros. The revised version omits the offending plant, but sales of the controversial design are planned.