– Crested Cacti and Succulents (2002)

PhotoBy Dorothy Weitz (March 2002)

Succulents are more prone than other plants to an abnormal type of growth known as fasciation, where the growing apex of the stem broadens to form a crest. The normally cylindrical stem expands to become fan-shaped. Some growth can contort the fan into irregular, brainlike masses referred to as crests or cristates. An allied phenomenon is the production of multiple growing points, termed monstrose growth.

Temporary fasciation or monstrosity can result from mechanical injury or the effects of weed killers, but other types are more or less permanent. Some rare cases can be inherited, with the crests bearing flowers and the seedlings showing similar growth. Such growth changes initially arise from seed or a sport (mutation) on a normal plant.

In the wild, cristate or monstrose plants are at a disadvantage and are eliminated in time. In cultivation, they can be perpetuated by cuttings or grafts. Because of their comparative rarity, they are much sought after by some collectors.

Any crested cactus or succulent is worth adding to your collection. Some are easier to grow than others, and some need to be grafted for best results.