Parodia (2006)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (September 2006)

A lone cloud slowly drifts by one warm morning at dawn, near a small town in northwestern Argentina. In this rocky hill country grows one of the most beautiful of the Parodia species. P. chrysacanthion is a light-green, globular species covered by slender golden-yellow spines.

Here one grows in a large mound of Abromeitiella brevifolia. A. brevifolia are terrestrial bromeliads with hard little bodies that hold water in this harsh land. The seedlings of cacti lucky enough to germinate in their mounds grow strong and thrive.

Eriocactus, Acanthocephala, Notocactus, Malacocarpus, Wigginsia – what exactly are these Parodia cacti?

Parodia is a “super genus” of cacti that is still evolving, mutating and adapting itself to many different habitats in South America. As a group, parodias are usually globular and rather small with fine spines. When trying to consider why a cactus is a member of the Parodia genus, the similarities in the plans can be as confusing as the many differences.

Many parodias grow in the protection of grasslands, while others grow in full sun on barren, rocky ground. Some, like the notocacti, are quite hardy. Other Parodia cacti are so delicate they often die when they are transplanted.

In A Cactus Odyssey, I found an interesting link in all of these closely related cacti. Most species of Parodia produce tiny food bodies around their seeds that seem to be a very attractive food source for ants. The ants, so it seems, disperse the seeds over vast areas. In essence, the ants are tiny assistants in the evolution of the cacti.