Remembering a Special Christmas Cactus

What do a spur-of-the-moment purchase and an article in an old magazine have in common? Turns out they are the keys to a cherished memory.

The article was in the December/January 2004 issue of Birds & Blooms magazine, found in the cabin were we staying in over Christmas break. It was about a Christmas cactus that had been in a Delaware woman’s family since her great-aunt had purchased it in 1888. At the time it was some 115+ years old, and if it is still alive, it would be roughly 124 years old! But, more about that in a minute.

The spur-of-the-moment purchase was made last fall (2011). My son saw a bedraggled twig of a Christmas cactus in a grocery store, and immediately wanted to rescue it. I had my doubts, but said, “Fine.” We brought it home.

This is what waited us when we returned from our Christmas break trip:

The lackluster plant turned into a blooming beauty.

I immediately thought of my paternal grandmother. In her later years she took great enjoyment from an assortment of houseplants, and one of her pride and joys was a huge Christmas cactus that stood on a plant stand in her living room. Every Christmas it would transform into a a fountain of red-fushia flowers.

I so wish I had a photograph of the plant I remember. I also wonder what happened to it after she passed away. It turns out that Christmas cacti often live for a century of more, so it could potentially be still alive if someone adopted it. In fact, I found a photograph on Flickr of another Christmas cactus with a history from 1893. It is now at the Washington State Capitol Conservatory.

I’m telling this story to my son in the hopes that he continues to cherish this Christmas cactus. I’d like to think that some future great-grandson or great-granddaughter will remember us by gazing a plant gaily decorated with bright red blooms.

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One response to “Remembering a Special Christmas Cactus

  1. Funny what memories a particular plant can evoke. My mother-in-law had a huge fern that I inherited when she died. It did well until one of my cats discovered it made a wonderful bed. I’d love to have another fern, but I don’t think it would do well here in Arizona.

    Your christmas cactus is lovely. I have never had any luck with them. 😦

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