Maihuenia (2013)

By Chris Deem (January 2013)

The silent land waits, entombed in ice. High above, a ghostly green aurora coils in the darkness. Now, a thin streak of purple joins thee more luminous green as solar winds struggle against a powerful magnetic field. Below in the darkness, a whirlwind of ice-chilled air coils out across black waters. Across the waters, in the icy darkness, a strange plant waits as it struggles against a continuous wind.

Long ago, there lived a plant, the ancestor of all cacti. They say that time is a continuum. Well, some time after the first cactus there came into existence the genus we call Pereskia. Pereskia is related to a rather strange genus of cacti, Maihuenia.

I found only two species of Maihuenia. Perhaps there are more, perhaps more existed in the past.

You may have seen a Maihuenia poeppigii. It has leaves like an opuntia, and it looks like a spiny green mat of moss, but I read that it is actually a tiny tree.

Perhaps M. patagonica is also a tree – it looks like an ugly, spine-covered bush. When I saw a Maihuenia patagonica in a book, I though of it standing in the wind in Patagonia, far across the waters from Antarctica. I thought of global warming and time. I thought, what if …