Rebutia (2008)

By Chris Deem (April 2008)

Last night’s cold rain is just a memory in the dawn of this new day. The grass on the mountainside dries quickly with the help of a strong warm breeze. Here and there, the bedrock protrudes through the grass-covered soil.

In one such outcrop, we witness a rare sight. As though responding to a silent command, a mass of orange flower buds opens simultaneously on this bright spring morning. Looking closer, we can see the colony of petite green, globular cacti with brownish-red spines. These plants are an unknown species of Rebutia.

Rebutia cacti are found in the highlands of Bolivia and the northern mountain ranges of Argentina. Rebutias are, for the most part, small, globular cacti with fine, bristlelike spines. Most species offset easily, and where conditions are favorable, they can produce large, dainty clumps.

Rebutias are alpine cacti. Warm, sunny days and cool nights are not unusual at these elevations. Along with strong air currents, this habitat provides the cacti with generous rains and rocky, mineral-rich ground, providing good drainage. Rebutia cacti are often found on bright, protected outcrops in the company of moss or alpine grasses.

Rebutias are grown for their small, attractive clumps, but they are also loved for their beautiful, funnel-shaped flowers. From low on the small cactus body they burst forth in spring. There is a color for every taste: yellows, reds, oranges and even the most pale white. Rebutias, from high on a mountain, are a tiny gift of spring.