Aztekium ritteri

By Chris Deem (May 2008)

The 1920s were an interesting period in time. Young American girls drank gin, cut their hair short and danced with no knowledge of the Depression to come. In Egypt, the small tomb of a minor ruler revealed his short life, and his funerary goods stunned the world.

In Mexico, in the state of Nuevo Leon, stood the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains, where a small discovery was made. Water pouring down the mountains had, over time, cut chasms in the stone. In one particular canyon, high on the rough mudstone walls, a most unusual species of cacti was found.

Growing in the broken sunlight, the small, hardy cacti defied gravity. Their roots held them fast in the cracks and crevices of the grumbling gypsum and weathering-resistant slate. They still grow there today.

To describe Aztekium ritteri is a difficult matter. They are tiny gray-green cacti with small taproots. Their small ribs have dirty white areoles and, here and there, a few small spines. The flowers are of a frail, exquisite nature. The colors are soft, pink and white.

Extremely slow growing, these cacti have a long lifespan. Fortunately, most cultivated plants are grafted and grow much faster than they do in habitat. Unfortunately, grafted plants stay greener and their aged gray cast is lost.

These cacti grow well in full sunlight. If the plants are growing on their own roots, water carefully. If they are grafted, water a bit more frequently. Aztekium ritteri is a unique plant that was discovered in a unique time.