Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cactus With Nine Lives

Now and then, a cactus comes along that stands out from the rest. Among the over 100 potted cacti I have in my garden, this Gymnocalycium baldianum is special. This little guy has been through cacti hell.

I found this cactus five years ago at Home Depot. It was in a cracked four-inch plastic container, on sale for a buck. I think it was on sale because it appeared half-dead, and since this species of Gymnocalycium is common, there were many other G. baldianum specimens for customers to choose. The future did not bode well for this one. I potted it, and it languished through the first year, never quite recovering from its initial emaciated appearance. It had three heads, and one didn't look bad, so I tried separating it from the sickly heads with no luck. I decided to put it down--and threw it in the trash. The next day I thought better of it, dug it out of the can and gave it a second chance. After that near death experience, this cactus seemed to get a second wind and began growing. It flowered that spring. It has also been through two pot crashes, a woodpecker mauling and has lived (and thrived) to tell the tale. Well, I'm telling the tale--the G. baldianum does not talk.

This cactus is an olive green, prolific bloomer. Commonly known as Dwarf Chin, the little indentations between the areoles bring to mind a tiny chin. The flowers begin in April and usually last until mid-September.
Baldianums can produce red, orange, pink or white flowers. My specimen has flowers that range from a salmon color to light pink, depending on the age of each flower. I regularly see three or four distinct flower colors on this same plant. Another thing I've noticed is that the flower color changes slightly from year to year. Last year, the flowers were an orangey shade, this year, pink. I've stylized this photo in PS Elements, but the color range is clearly visible.

The globes on my specimen range from two to four inches, depending on age. On this species, the largest globes stay around three inches in diameter, so mine is a bit larger than normal. Because of its history, this little guy has a place of honor in one of my fancier wrought iron plant stands, rather than relegated to the patio floor with the other cacti. I think it rewards me for my rescue efforts--and forgives the trash episode--by producing more flowers each year.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Ode to an Initially Pitiful 3-Headed Cactus...

She saved me,
She loved me,
She dumped me,
She saved me.
How much more could she love me?
...and she still does...