Melocactus (2004)

By Chris Deem (September 2004)

A Day in the Curious Life of a Melocactus

I was born in February of 2001 in a large greenhouse near the woods. If you include my spines – and I do – I stand almost 2 inches tall. To look at me while I’m still young, you might think I am just any cactus, but I am a melocactus. My family is large and can be found in Mexico, Central and South America, and on many islands of the Caribbean. I am Melocactus matanzanus and I come from Cuba.

Today I sit in my little green pot on a table with many other plants. Some I know and some I have never seen before. I’m in a large, noisy, bright room. There is a lot of activity here.

I’m moving fast now, across the room. I look down and see my parent. There she is, in her large, wide container, with plenty of room for her shallow roots to grow. It took her many years to grow so large.

She is beautiful and fully mature. Her rich dark-green ribs are covered in rows of spines. Her body will grow no larger, but each year her cephalium will grow taller as the seasons pass and new flowers and seed pods grow.

As I look at her and the colorful ribbon at her side, I feel a curious sensation. Voices above me discuss my future. One voice I recognize says softly, “Keep her warm.”

I’m leaving this place now – where I am going is unknown. Maybe I will return one day, years from now, if the new voices were listening. For I am delicate and temperamental and very sensitive to the cold.

Oh, well, I’m not afraid. I’m not just any cactus. I’m a melocactus. One day I will return to that large, bright room and I’ll see my mother again and maybe I’ll have a ribbon of my own.

Dedicated to Pam Schnebelen.