Mammillaria (2013)

By Chris Deem (April 2013)

One hundred and eighty million years ago, a massive group of floating phytoplankton reached the Mexican shore. For millions of years thereafter, their remains mixed with quartz, carbon dioxide and calcium carbonate from shells and seawater. Eventually, some of the phytoplankton, now existing as limestone, found their way to a jutting edge, high atop a steep cliff in Tamaulipas.

Today on this precipice, the limestone is slowly weathering. There on the precipice, fractured and joining with new materials, the limestone holds within it the roots of a small cluster of the species Mammillaria carmenae. There, in the midst of the phytoplankton of old, the spines of the cacti flash red and gold throughout the sunlit hours.

A daydream, it’s just a daydream of my favorite Mammillaria species. I like the way the plants look. Many people feel the same way. At least they did once, decades ago, when they were rare and beautiful and came from parts unknown.

They are so diminutive, with their spines of white or gold. We now know from where they come. We now know how easy they are to grow. It was once so different – once, when the plants were very rare. Sadly, though, their beauty of old is common now and they often die unsold.

I still like this pretty cliff-dwelling species from Tamaulipas. Of course, you may not feel the same way. So bring in your own favorite Mammillaria species, for Plant of the Month on a fine April day.