As a cactus aficionado, I love the detail and structure of cacti. I marvel at the flawless symmetry presented in the endless variety of spines and tubercles, to say nothing of the flowers! Cacti are like living sculptures and works of art. In the Cactaceae family, there are 93 genera and over 2000 species identified so far, and probably more to be discovered and crossed, hybridized, and cloned. Many are similar, but on closer examination, there can be infinite natural differences within a species. Just like people.
The Mammillaria marksiana (Cabeza de Viejo) shown in the photo is a great example of symmetry. In this cactus, the spirally arranged prominent tubercles form a clear wheel-like pattern that seems to be moving when you stare at it. The wooly axils help guide the eye to its spiral shape. The M. marksiana has yellow flowers that form in a ring pattern on the previous year’s growth. It blooms in late winter, with the resulting green fruit ripening in summer. Originally from Mexico, it grows under the protection of nurse plants there. In Phoenix it requires light shade and little water.
Of the thousands of cacti to choose from, the next one I'd like to acquire is a Neolloydia valdeziana, with miniscule, feathery spines and violet flowers. It is a tiny beauty from Mexico, but I have yet to find one. I guess cactus collectors are no different than rose lovers or dahlia dabblers. There's always one more you just gotta have!