Awaiting the Cactus Flower

My cactus finally bloomed, after only 16 years of waiting.

Flashy cactus blooms
Cactus buds and blooms emerge

Sixteen years ago, as I raided the seed package carousel at the local Walmart, I came upon one package entitled “Desert Cactus Plants.”  It had a photo of various types of cactus, none of which I was familiar with.  We don’t see many cacti here in the heartland, just an occasional patch of those big ugly flat types with the yellow blooms atop them in summer.  I think they are called “Prickly Pear,” and people put them in dry, rocky places here.  I’m surprised they don’t rot.

Barrel cactus in bloom
The barrel cactus buds and blooms

Anyway, I bought the seed packet and followed the instructions.  A few weeks later I noticed I had several tiny—and I mean tiny with a “t”—cactus seedlings in the sandy pot.  I nurtured them all that year and one by one they all died, until I was left with one single plant.  I put it in its own pot and pretty much protected it from all the rainfall we get around here by planting it in a mix of gravel of sand—no saucer under it, of course.

And it lived.  And it grew—slowly.  Over the next decade, as I moved around the country, I hauled it with me wherever I went.  I got jabbed by the incredibly sharp thorns on many occasions. More than once it was almost left in a dumpster.  Eventually I grew attached to my cactus.  It was hardy and it wasn’t demanding.  And after it grew to several inches in height I could identify it (I think) as a barrel cactus.

Worth waiting for
Worth waiting for

Then, three years ago in early summer, I noticed tiny orange nodules popping up on top of the cactus barrel.  And within a few weeks these buds had developed into lovely blossoms, which lasted for several weeks.  It has bloomed every summer since.

© Wade Kingston

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