Rapicactus beginii (2013)

By Chris Deem (June 2013)

When I was young, there was a planet called Pluto. … That’s the really chilling thing about facts, sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes, we experience a flash of insight and believe it is a fact. It reminds me of the flight of a comet.

Nudged by something in icy blackness, it begins a journey. Its beginning is in darkness – cold it is and inconsequential, until it is not. At some point, it changes. Now it glows like ice on fire.

It continues on its journey, glowing white, followed by two tails, one yellow and one blue. Awestruck, we watch it, a marvel in the darkness. It continues on a journey. For us, it is soon gone.

I was looking for a cactus that I had not written about before. I stopped when I saw a picture of a Rapicactus beguinii. Its spines looked like ice crystals, highlighted by shining black tips. Its appearance was so like a comet. Sadly, though, the more I learned about it, the more confused I became.

This species was listed as a Turbinicarpus, Gymnocactus or Rapicactus. One book said the plant was definitely a rapicactus. Yet as I read on, the author seemed to imply it was somehow different. After reading several opinions, I started to feel that “the experts” could not agree on what this species is or even if Rapicactus should be in the genus Turbinicarpus. To further add to the confusion, another “expert” believed this species was, in fact, a neolloydia.

This was, after much reading, my understanding of the facts. Of course, I may have gotten the facts wrong – see my first sentence. When I was young, there was a planet called Pluto.

Still, Pluto has not really changed. When I was young, we did not have dwarf planets. What now will we call their moons? There are other things out there now. I guess they were also there when I was young. Only the facts have changed. Anyway, I still think this cactus looks like a comet. Of course, some might see a centaur.