Pterocactus araucanus (2014)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (January 2014)

A cool wind with a cold rhythm pulses across the dry northern fringe of Patagonia. Here on this high plateau, there is little resistance. The bending and snapping of the tall grasses mimic the sound of angry waves on turbulent waters. It is an orange-cast afternoon sun on a late autumn day that showers amber light on the swaying grasses.

Here too, several small stressed stems of a Pterocactus araucanus sway as the sand is diffused by the pulsing wind. A sudden movement, a fracture unheard from above, causes one small stem to be forcibly severed.

Above the ground, the wind pulses. Under the sand, the underground parts of the pterocactus violently sway. The dry sand pours down over its neck and massive root at the moment a jagged rock has at last given way. It’s just a small event, on a late autumn day, as a cool wind in Patagonia pulses and sways.

The genus called Pterocactus is from Argentina. It has several species. Pterocactus araucanus is my favorite because it is not supposed to have glochids. I still will not buy one, just in case that fact is not true.

If you buy one, be warned. Someday, you might look at your plant, and its little stems will be dead. Don’t be sad, for this species just likes to do things like that. It’s probably just pretending to be dead, so just pretend you believe it, and don’t water it for a while. It will get bored after some time has passed, and it will put up a new little stem.