Gymnocalyciums of Argentina (2005)

By Chris Deem (June 2005)

The tall grass waves slowly in the dry, gentle breeze, near the city of Villa Maria in the province of Cordoba. The breeze slowly diffuses a rich fragrance of drying grass and the scent of many flowers over the dark, slightly acidic soil.

I am Gymnocalycium baldianum – welcome to Argentina. My small, globular body, with my water storage root to sustain me, shines in the sun. I have a deep blue-green color, and thin, spiderlike spines cover me. The color of my flowers is a rich wine red. I am a ruby in the midst of diamonds in a dry sea of green.

Argentina is home to many cacti, from the notocacti and tiny rebutias to giants like trichocereus. Parodias, too, grow in abundance from the province of Salta to harsh Patagonia. Gymnocalycia fill the landscape with blossoms of red, pink and white.

Our popularity is richly deserved. The globular bodies of gymnocalycia come in a variety of shapes and many shades of green. Our spines sometimes project, but most are slender and curved. We thrive in the dark mineral soils of South America and wait for summer rains.

Our flowers’ smooth, scaly buds emerge from our crowns in spring and summer. We are protected from the full intensity of the sun by the cool breezes and high grasses that share our homeland. In the winter, all is cool and dry. A silence of rest and anticipation fills the land.

If you wish us to join your family, remember what I have said. Water us well in the growing season and protect us from full sun. We grow easily from seed, so give us a fertile soil and we will give you beauty.