Neochilenia napina (2008)

By Chris Deem (November 2008)

It started out as just another hot and oppressive day out in the desert near Huasco, in the country of Chile. Then, unexpectedly, the gray overcast sky released its moisture.

It was slow, spotty at first, then a heavy soaking rain. The hot, gritty soil steamed. Small channels of water shaped like lightning poured across the sandy ground.

The cool raindrops warmed slightly as they trickled down the hard epidermis and tiny black spines of a cactus. The small gray-green and slightly purplish cactus had been waiting a long time. Its thick and tuberous roots slowly started to swell.

Then the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started. The sun returned, burning away the remaining clouds and drying the sandy ground. In an hour, all appeared as it had before. Sometimes, it rains in the desert.

Yes, I know, it is now called Eriosyce napina and before that was Neoporteria napina. However, I believe that in these large groupings of cacti species, it is very easy to lose sight of the unique natures of the various plants. Let us consider for a moment the difference of appearance in the flowers.

Neochilenia species have hairy flower buds that are funnel-shaped when open and often very pale in color. Neoporteria cacti have flowers that are more tubular in shape and usually deep shades of pink. Their center petals, when fully open, are held up like fingertips almost touching.

Neochilenia napina grow in full sun in the arid coastal regions of the department of Copiapo. The flowers of this ancient-looking plant are classic neochilenian: hairy, pale and open-faced. Why not bring your favorite eriosyce and your opinion to our next meeting?