Celebrating a Survivor

By , December 18, 2018

At this time of year, many people in the northern hemisphere enjoy blooming Christmas cacti. Observing that our Christmas cactus is budding once again caused me to think about its interesting story.

Small Christmas cactus
Our Christmas cactus (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Christmas cactus, also known as Thanksgiving cactus, crab cactus, or holiday cactus, are from the genus Schlumbergera. They get their name from blooming in short daylight, which in our part of the world means roughly between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We can’t remember when, exactly, we got the cactus. Michelle guesses that it came to us about 1999. Friends in Juneau moved away from there, leaving their cactus with us. We nurtured it, carefully replanting or giving away any segments that broke off. It survived the unwanted attentions of our two cats. We had to leave it out in the rain overnight while moving from Juneau to Haines, and almost lost it. Several times we’ve needed to move it to workplaces and friends’ houses in winter, and have nearly frozen it to death. Still, it not only lingers, but thrives!

At a certain point, I believe we even ended up giving our original friends a cutting, so that they could have the plant “back.”

Large Christmas cactus
Years ago, we gave a local friend a cutting from our cactus. Here’s what it looks like now! (Photo: Russ White).

 After all these years, we cherish our Christmas cactus and its periodic blooming. We do so especially in recent years, as it now not only reminds us of our friends, but recalls their recent medical struggles. The wife of the couple fought and beat cancer!

Fun Fact: I couldn’t find any of the photos she took of this, but Aly used to shine a red laser pointer into Christmas cactus blossoms. It’s really something to see!

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