Friday, December 07, 2001

Christmas Cactus

The buds on the cactus in our living room have flowered. The potted plant that my wife had taken such good care of, was by the window through which it could get a lot of light. But, about a week ago, many round dark-pink buds started to appear from the pointed ends of the crab leg-shaped green stems. In this cold weather it grew to about 5 centimeters long, and, once the petals on the end opened, it bloomed. With the stamen jutting out from the middle of the blossom, it looks almost triumphant--as if it had been waiting for the arrival of December. The pistil at the end of the blossom is the same dark pink color as the petals, but delicate white thread-like stamen surround it. If you look closely, you can see all the yellow pollen at the ends. It's very lovely, very sweet, the way the stamen seems to be extending out, as if trying to bear fruit, even in the winter, when there are very few insects. So, at the end of the day, when the sun was going down, I closed the curtain only halfway so the thick material would not damage the blossoms.

It seems that it's very difficult for this type of cactus to bear fruit from the blossom. It comes from the jungles of Brazil and is vigorous. When the crab leg-like stem is broken and falls off, it sprouts roots and the stem grows. This is generally the way it grows. Because of this the "joints" of the crab-like legs break quite easily. This stem segmentation is the way it multiplies and flourishes. My wife tells me that this particular plant has been with us for more than 10 years. She has been putting it out during the day, watering it occasionally and transplanting it in a slightly larger pot every 2-3 years. Right now, it's about 25 centimeters from the top of the soil--the plant, and the dozens of crab leg-like stems stretch like an arch, and each of the reddish pink buds have flowers at the ends. It's fabulous--like a countless number of birds with red faces and beaks, stretching their necks. Since it flowers in December, it's known in the United States and England as the Christmas Cactus.

I described the stems on the plant as "crab legs", but there might be a little confusion since there is also a similar variety of plant called kaniba cactus(crab-like cactus). There are sharp, jagged saw-like edges, on the stem of the Christmas Cactus, similar to the Mantis Crab. On the other cactus, however, the edges aren't as jagged and sharp. Since it blooms in February or March, it's called the Easter Cactus. There are also varieties that bloom during April or May. Because of their different shapes and characteristics, there are people who enjoy collecting and growing different types of cacti as a hobby. We, however, have only this one type at our house, but we do have three separate pots.

- MT

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