CALL OF THE CACTUS

 Cactus diversity.

CALL OF THE CACTUS

 

Sing now oh Muse of the mysterious beauty of the Cactus,

and the seductive charms of its softer, subtler sister; the Succulent.

These are the Desert Dwellers, the Vegetable Survivors of the hard dry lands of rock and sand and shale.

Leaves they have left behind, a luxury that they leave to their lesser cousins of the Plant Kingdom, the spoiled, effete decadents who cling to the riversides and lakes, the well-watered fields. The Cactus disdains these pampered pets of irrigation .

Like a mirage they mysteriously manifest

before the Desert traveller,

shimmering through the heat-haze,

clothed in spines and hooks and fur like tribal warriors.

Even their names hint of their ferocity, the Latin tags bestowing an austere gravitas upon them; Horrida, fero-cactus, terribilis, monstrosa..

 Astrophytum Capricornia

(Astrophytum Capricornia, sprinkled with stars and armed to the teeth sitting crowned like a Sabbat Goat with its mighty sets of blackened horns.)

The Cactus is perrenial and may live for hundreds of years. Some species are topped with a snowy mane and stand like Desert Methusalehs, swollen with unexplainable waters, bitter as tears or the Sea.

The mighty Organ-pipe cactus looms above with its out-stretched arms, a crucified prophet not only crowned but entirely carpeted in thorns.

The perverse sexuality of their forms; a whole sub-species, Mammalaria, the “nippled” cactus, ribbed and rowed with superfluous teats like the cult statue of an ancient fertility Goddess, Demeter, maybe, or Artemis. Some barbaric warrior goddess with hooked and needled nipples.

A hanging-basket of rat-tail cactus drooping like a display of aesthetically arranged phalluses. (Authors note; The tounge and genitals of the common cat are similarly arrayed with rows of spikes-perhaps some unsuspected genetic connection here between cats and cacti, some link lurking in the DNA?)

Parodia Magnificens

The Succulents if anything are worse. Crested, ridged and obscenely protuberant, like the genitals of an Alien species with unknown genders imagined in the depths of a fever dream; A vegetable mimickry of tounges & clittorii & lips & lids & shafts.

Echeveria hybrid

Discarding Adam’s Figleaf of Propriety, the Succulent (the name itself is suggestive) endulges in an Orgy of Exhibitionist Suggestiveness; all the budding, the dividing, the sprouting, the many folds, the shy head of the reptillian flower-stalk emerging from the crevices spread like lips, the silky sheen of the succulents’ skin stretched taut in the season of rains as the tissues swell beneath, a rich ripening, glowing and golden and green. Engorged the swollen concertina ribs expand in mute glorious gluttony each and every time it rains.

(Habituated to drought, the Cactus has forgotten how to stop drinking. Thus in times of unusually heavy rain, a cactus will continue absorbing water until it splits and bursts.)

Gasteria- the "tongue" succulent

What means their mysterious tribal-markings; the stripes and bands, the spirals, stars, and galaxies? A whole sub-species, Astrophytum named for their Stellar patternings.

I dream of crossing an Old Man Cactus (Espotoa Lanata) with a Venus Fly-Trap, producing a carnivorous Cacti with the pelt of a Yeti, the mountains echoing with its terrible cry.. who knows what the future may bring, or the idle curiosity of an inspired geneticist?

 that old man cactus

A science-fiction vision of a genetically “enhanced” Cactus “in heat”, driven mad by lust and the encoded desire of its DNA, moving with the slow purposefulness of a Crown-of-Thorns starfish towards the Object of its misplaced Desire; an Iron Maiden rusting in the museum.

Haworthis with teeth

There are some Cacti that know the secrets of the Stars, the Spirits and the Worlds above and below.

How they came by these secrets is not known. But squat, leathery and ugly as a toad, they wait for the unwary in the empty places to crack open their heads.

They will whisper their secrets then, to those who listen, but will you understand them if you heard?

The Shamans approach these Cactus with ritual and caution, join with them in a Cannabalistic Communion now largely forgotten in these degenerate days. Respect is shown. In time they are taught new rituals to take back to their tribe, so that they may remember still their part in the Great Cycles. For are we not all one flesh, plant and mammal? Are we not all made with the stuff of this world? 

A succulant selection

Does a plant have Vegetable Consciousness? A foolish question one might think, but consider, the latest scientific research tells us that plants are sensitive life forms; arrayed with a variety

of chemo-receptors, they have in their own fashion a sense of sight, of hearing, of taste, of touch, and so on and so forth.

So one has a right therefore to ask; what does it feel like to be a plant?

Lithops the stone cactusIf I had to be a plant, I’ve often thought to myself, I’d like to be a Cactus, and lead the peaceful, sedentary lifestyle of that species. Safe in my carapace of spines I’d drowse the days away in the desert sun, sleepy as a lizard on a nice, warm rock. Sentinel silent I’d stand watch through the crisp, clear desert nights beneath the eternally wheeling stars. Moons would wax and wane.

Roots spread deep through soil and sand

I’d take my stand

and slowly photo-synthesize

the clean, fresh desert air.

No seasons would I know,

but through the centuries patient grow,

ridge after ridge of golden spines,

which in the Sun would gleam and shine

till after many years

and by chance a passing shower,

the quick bright bloom

of an unexpected flower.

Mammalaria close up

The Cacti in these photos are courtesy of the annual Mt Cootha Show of the Cactus and Suculant Society of QLD.  The Gasteria and the A. Capricornia are from the Reverends private collection

***

vegetateJpig

***

!!!

The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet, President of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity Inc., and an ordained minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe.

A keen gardener, he has a green and punctured thumb

***

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~ by reverendhellfire on June 16, 2013.

5 Responses to “CALL OF THE CACTUS”

  1. Loved your homage to the cacti! Lots of wonderful details, and very amusing.

    • They’re strange wee beasties thats for sure and good evidence of the processes of evolution. True cacti grow in the america’s, but in Africa theres a succulent family, the euphorbia, that mimic exactly the appearance of many non-related cacti species.(The main distinguising point is the euphorbias have milky sap rather than clear juice)They both lived in similar environments which favoured specific tactics to survive and both independantly trotted off down the same evolutionary path.

  2. A lifeform worthy of such a tribute. Enjoyed it very much. Thanks.

  3. I’d love to have that big pot in the first picture with the big clump of silver haired cacti in it !!!

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