Turbinicarpus (2009)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (August 2009)

No one was ever sure just how it got started. Up there, everyone knew it was just dry, hilly scrubland. The chalky limestone soil had always been poor, useless, really. Still, that night everyone came out to watch the fire.

The night was warm, and you could see the embers glowing red. The fire seemed to embrace the dry shrubs in a grotesque dance of death. It didn’t last long, and no one even knew about the cacti.

All of the tiny Turbinicarpus cacti were killed. Their soft, grayish spines were scorched and withered. Their small bodies were shrunken and charred by the heat of the flames.

In the morning, everything seemed fine. There was still a slight odor in the air, but it was just a small brush fire. No one really cared.

In their natural habitats, these small cacti face many dangers. Brush fires, soil erosion and illegal collectors are some of the greatest souces of peril.

In the arid hills of Mexico, most species do not offset, but live out their lives as small, slow-growing, single-stemmed plants. Many of the most unique species can be found in San Luis Potosi.

The flowers are pretty and varied among the many species. Some of the flowers are violet. Others are yellow, pink or white.

Turbinicarpus, unlike many other cacti, prefer alkaline soils. These plants can rot easily if provided generous episodes of watering. Remember to water them with care.