Coryphantha, Escobaria (2014)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (May 2014)

There is a disorienting silence in the overcrowded hive. Many wings are fanning, yet still the heat is oppressive.

The old queen prepares to relinquish her home. Three years have passed, and her obligatory success has brought a bitter reward, exile.

Revealing no emotion, her shimmering, translucent wings flutter briefly as she folds them over her long, amber-brown abdomen. Her eyes and the eyes of many have turned toward a small worker bee that has just arrived.

Without preamble or greeting, the worker begins to dance. She dances with precision, revealing the directions to the site of their new home.

Suddenly, a sound is heard. Dark and cold, an evil pulsation is being emitted by the queen. It is a message to a royal daughter, not yet born. There are five potential rivals to this daughter. They, too, hear this sound.

Now, with a low rumbling hum, the queen and her swarm leave the hive. The queen does not look back. Within the hour, the eldest daughter will be born. That sound will be one of the last her royal sisters ever hear.

Honey bees or killer bees, sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Escobaria vivipara is called the “beehive cactus.” It is also called Coryphantha vivipara. Well, is it a coryphantha or an escobaria?

It appears these cacti are closely related and are still being debated. At this time, they are considered separate genera, but some wish to merge Escobaria within Coryphantha.

I did notice a difference in their flowers. Coryphantha species most often have yellow flowers. Those called escobarias seldom do.

There is one thing many of these related cacti have in common: cold hardiness. In the book Cacti and Succulents for Cold Climates, several species in both genera were noted for their cold tolerance. There was one caveat – that they be kept dry in winter.