Consider the Cacti

Today in Hort Systematics we studied the Cactaceae. It’s a fun–yet painful–lab. Inevitably transferring the cacti from the greenhouse to the lab and setting up stations results in me getting glochids and spines in my hands.

Spines and glochids and areoles!

Here’s a random cactus story.

Many years ago I was driving with a golden rain barrel cactus in the passenger seat of my car. We were headed west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Eventually the time came to leave the toll road. I have paid tolls on roads many times, it is usually a mundane experience. Paying this toll, however, would not be mundane. As I stopped at the toll booth a driver approaching the toll booth was looking in her purse for change. She continued to look for change as the distance between our cars diminished. Until, in one unfortunate moment both our cars attempted to occupy the same space. The impact threw me back against my seat. My cactus was launched head first into the passenger seat back, right in the lower lumbar region. It stuck there, suspended in the air. No damage was done to my car (except perhaps for the passenger seat back), so I accepted the apology of the other driver with a smile and a “Don’t worry about it.” It took two hands and a surprising amount of effort to free the cactus. I moved it to the floor, for the puncture wounds in the seat were disturbing. And that was the last time I allowed a cactus to ride shotgun in my car.

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