Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus (2009)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (July 2009)

For the longest time, it seemed to exist as little more than a slowly growing, swollen and pale, grayish root. Darkness and heat had eventually given way to intense light and blowing sand. For a time, when the tiny green tubercles first started to become recognizable, the sandy flatland, though rather empty, seemed warm and accommodating.

Time here, it seems, as well as the landscape, can change like the blowing sands – suddenly, irregularly, sometimes not at all.

The summer was hot. Nothing but the cracks in the ground grew deeper. Then, a thunderstorm appeared one day. The heavy rain soon outpaced the poor soil’s ability to absorb it. That day, for over 20 minutes, the existence of the small cactus became a swirling mix of sand, water and mire.

It took a long time for the plant to become recognizable again. Over many months, the wind and the sand slowly removed the debris from the surface of the tiny triangular tubercles. To this day, in the depressed woolly center of the plant, an ugly orange stain still remains.

There are six states in central and northern Mexico in which the species Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus can be found. The largest variety is found in the state of Queretaro. It is usually late summer or early autumn before the large flowers start to appear. They vary in color. Many are a deep purplish-red, some are a gentle pink and in their northern habitat, a pale white variety grows.

Picture in your mind unwanted wasteland, hills of limestone rubble or sun-baked flatlands. Look closely, you will find them here. How can a tiny plant invoke such an irresistible fascination? How can one explain desire?