suc·cu·lent: (of a plant) having fleshy and juicy tissues. a succulent plant, as a sedum or cactus. having thick, fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems.
After packing up the car (floorboard to roof) this past Friday, I insisted that we leave open space in the back seat for our trip to the Kactus Korral (http://www.kactus.com/), in Harwood, Texas. Taking an alternate route back to Virginia, we stumbled onto this place in 2006, about 70+ miles from San Antonio. The best part of our 2nd trip? Everything was 50% off this time around! Heart pounding, steps quickening, I was in (deeply discounted) cactus heaven! And to top it off, everything I bought fit exactly into its allotted space in an already full car.
Although the Kactus Korral (some Texans take liberties with spelling, don’t they?) is primarily a wholesale nursery, they are open to the public. They have the healthiest, most interesting and diversified selection of cacti and succulents I’ve ever seen in a nursery. If we had more sunny windows in our townhouse (and uh, more space in the car), I would have bought one of everything (especially at 50% off). This place is very out of the way, across some railroad tracks, down a two-lane road. And just like the first visit, we had the greenhouse to ourselves. I bought just over a dozen lithops, or living stones (for about $1 each!). They germinate quickly from seed, but are very slow growing—not ready for transplanting until they are about a year old.
Lithops is drived from the Greek lithos, meaning stone-like or stone appearance. As the “stones” mature, they split open, revealing babies (sometimes of a different color, too)…and they continue to split, forming little colonies. In the wild, these flowering plants occur mainly in the western, drier areas of South Africa.
Obviously I bought more than just that dozen lithops (it’s not my fault). I was so very tempted by the “crown of thorns,” available in various shades of apricot, yellow, red, pink, and white. This plant’s botanical name is Euphorbia millii, and is also know as the Christ Crown. This common name refers to legend that a crown of thorns was placed on Christ’s head at the crucifixion. Originally from Madagascar, these easy-to-care-for plants seem to bloom continuously all year long. I have two miniscule ones but they are not as lush as the specimens at Kactus Korral. So, with great hesitation, I refrained from adding one to my collection. One other thought occurred to me during this agonizing decision making process—purchasing even one (and who could choose just one color?), would mean leaving behind a suitcase or…gasp—a box of gardening books!
Michael and I were amazed at how large their pencil cactus (or milkbush) plants were. Several were over nine feet tall! These plants are also a member of the Euphorbia family, Euphorbia tirucalli. I have one that is about two feet tall (picked up in Louisiana when we drove down to Texas for Christmas), but after reading about the cons of this plant, I’m rethinking its placement right now. Note: If a plant is classified as a Euphorbia, it will have poisonous sap (crown of thorns included, but the properties of poison in each plant vary from species to species. Poinsettias, for example, are also Euphorbias, and aren’t as poisonous as most of us think (according to vets writing on the subject online), but they are irritating to the mucosal tissues. Some Euphorbias are very poisonous, though.
Kactus Korral is a wonderful place to shop, and with its rows and rows of exotic, twisty, otherworldly, prickly, hairy, spiky, medusa-like, and colorful plants, it’s also a dream place to shoot graphically-rich shots, as you can see. Some shots looks like miniature landscapes with rows of “skyscrapers” and “crowds.” I shot these with my little Nikon Coolpix L3 compact camera (couldn’t get to my “pro” cameras buried in the back of the car).
I am especially enamored with the “non-cacti” succulents, of which Kactus Korral had several kinds (lithops, aeoniums, crasulas, aloes, echeverias, and astrolobas, to name a few). Here’s a great site with an extensive inventory: http://www.gosucculent.com
To learn more about growing cacti, check out this site: http://cactiguide.com/growcacti/
And remember, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti!
© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.