Thelocactus (2014)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (June 2014)

Disoriented by the passing storm, a black and burnt-orange butterfly has chosen a precarious perch, a spine on a Thelocactus bicolor. On the spine are cool droplets of rain. As the Monarch drinks, she opens and closes her wings, flashing light orange then dark as though she is incapable of stopping.

This is the first of many thelocactus this butterfly will see. Her parents were dead before she had wings, and all her companions are gone. She takes flight once again with her knowledge inborn, she is going home.

Six weeks have passed and many miles. Now she is in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. As she flies over a hill, she can see a crowd of yellow wildflowers gently swaying and several large olive-green cacti called Thelocactus hexaedrophorus.

Weary and alone, below her is a place of safety, yet she flies on. She has a vision of a cool forest, an awareness that is unexplainable. Somehow she knows, although she has never been there, the fir trees stand tall in Michoacan. She still has far to go, but she is going home.

Something nice and unexpected happened to me at last year’s HSCSS show. I was impressed by several plants as I walked past the many tables of another successful show. One particular group of cacti caught my eye. Mike Hellmann had entered a trio of Thelocactus.

Thelocactus is a small, often overlooked genus of perhaps 10 or 12 species. His were perfect. Large and beautiful, a well-deserved blue ribbon sat to one side, but that was not what struck me.

As I stood there admiring his plants, I remembered the first cactus I ever owned. It was a Thelocactus, a common species, at that time called Hamatocactus setispinus. As I stood there remembering, I realized that like the butterfly in this story, I, too, had been on a wonderful journey.

Thanks, Mike.