Obregonia dengrii (2007)

By Chris Deem (November 2007)

It’s the worst drought in 50 years. The parched trees and thorny shrubs still manage, somehow, to shade the hot valley. The limestone rocks and hard clay soil seem to have merged into a coalescence of depair.

On the ground beneath the dessicated leaves, two Obregonia dengrii wait in desperation for the summer’s rain. Stressed from above and below, the cacti have only their thick taproots on which to rely, as the sun slowly dries out their leaflike turbercles.

At last, hope has sent a messenger, in the form of a strong, cool breeze. The leaves swirl about, breaking off a few of the larger cactus’s remaining spines.

As it nears the coast of Tamaulipus, the sky is a sickly gray-green. Fresh water splashes on salt water as the strong storm over the warm gulf waters, at last, makes its slow approach toward the dry, desperate land.

Obregonia dengrii grow in Tamaulipus in northeastern Mexico. They are often found growing in semishaded areas to which their small bodies have adapted. Their stems have dull green, triangular tubercles and weak, thin spines that often break off. From the white tufts grow pretty white flowers. The berries are also white. These cacti require cool winters; bright, but not direct light and humid summers.

An aura of bad luck seems to follow these little plants. Botanist A. V. Fric discovered the plants after his car broke down in the desert. O. dengrii was named for the newly elected Mexican president, Alvaro Obregon. Obregon was assassinated shortly after he took office.