October 30, 2011 @ 11:58 pm
I was in the full throes of enthusiasm when I obtained this rather costly little plant. By enthusiasm I mean the old sense of divine inspiration or frenzy. This frenzy — probably a dopamine buzz — always grips me in the sales area at cactus and succulent plant shows. To my friends, I apologize if I seem dizzy or distracted. It’s because my mind is bathed in an unseen, golden haze.
It’s both embarrassing and enthralling to be an enthusiast — almost any kind of enthusiast, but particularly a plant enthusiast. Embarrassing because it’s so personal, so particular, so quaint, so… geeky. Enthralling because the object of our enthusiasm brings such immediate fascination, such transfixing attention, such passion.
As soon as you reveal a passion, you make yourself vulnerable — this is true with any declaration of love. How much moreso with plants? For one thing, the love is always unrequited. And it’s such an obscure, unusual love. It’s a little like loving, say, mathematics. (Guilty!) And yet it’s much more humble, more homely, almost banal… literally down in the dirt. Face it, you are out on a limb — a plant limb — and it feels awkward.
Same plant in full bloom 3 days later. In habitat, only the tips of the leaves (and flower) would be visible above the gypsum shale scree. (And yes, I just enjoy writing gypsum shale scree.)
Like most passions in life, if you have to explain it, no words will suffice; yet to another enthusiast, no words are necessary. The beauty of the forms, the plants’ names and stories, the technical details of habitat and how to care for the plants — these crossbeams interlock to build first a frame and then a fully furnished room in the house of one’s life (or at least to take over the backyard… sorry honey!).
Today’s plant, Ariocarpus scaphirostris (also spelled scapharostrus for historical reasons) is an obscure beauty — literally obscure. In nature it spends its entire life hidden underground with only the tips of its tubercles exposed (those thick protuberances). And even its tubercles when dusty blend perfectly into the landscape, looking exactly like the shards of gypsum shale which litter its habitat.
This complete camouflage is demonstrated almost miraculously in — of all things — a YouTube video.
Ariocarpus scaphirostris is also obscure because it lives in such a limited area, only Valle de Rayones, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. This rare plant is endangered by collectors and, it turns out, by goats which range the slopes where it lives and damage the landscape. Luckily more and more folks in Mexico (and internationally) are coming to recognize the irreplaceable resource of Nuevo Leon‘s native plant life, including this almost invisible geophyte (plant living mostly underground).
Ariocarpus scaphirostris is vulnerable, but its outlook is improving modestly as passionate individuals raise its conservation profile in Mexico and the rest of the world. This plant is small, it’s slow, it’s difficult, and it’s hard to come by. Most of the year it looks like twisted green rocks. But I think it’s beautiful, and this was its first flower under my care.
Ariocarpus scaphirostris at CactusArt.biz
Ariocarpus scaphirostris at CactiGuide.com
Ariocarpus scaphirostris at Living Rocks of Mexico