Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Thanksgiving Cactus

The extreme seasonality of north central Lincolnland produces three months of tropical weather, three months of arctic weather, and two 3 month periods of very changeable transition. Long ago the Phactor discovered that his tropical plants performed very well if they were quartered outside, hanging from arbors and tree limbs, mostly in light shade, with short sunny periods for the warmer months, usually from late May until September, or like this year, October. Once the nights start getting cold they get unhappy. The shorter days and cooler weather of early fall are quite good at promoting flowering, and people who complain about their house plants not flowering invariably leave them inside year around, and keeping them in well-lit rooms (long nights stimulate flowering). So a month after moving back inside, right on cue, the Thanksgiving cactus (probably Schlumberger truncata, or a similar species, or even a hybrid of this species) began flowering. This particular group of cacti is native to tropical forests of Brazil where they grow as epiphytes. As adaptions to this habitat of frequent rain and rapid drying, tropical or so-called orchid cacti lack the thick spiny stems that most people think are characteristic of cacti and have flattened, leaf-like stems. Certainly the flower is quite spectacular and clearly adapted for hummingbird pollination. You can see how a hummingbird flying in to prob this flower for a nectar reward will upon arrival have its head and neck contact the exerted stigma (red nob)and stamens, both delivering and picking up pollen in that order. Unfortunately this cactus never flowers early enough to interact with our native ruby-throated hummingbirds before one migrates south and the other moves indoors.


Sally said...

Oh, I love these guys. Thanks for the post on them. I still expect them to flower for Christmas, though--whatever happened to those varieties?

Mine are also blooming now. After, yes, being outside til at least mid-October. Maybe later.

Larissa said...

mine is covered in buds, but none open yet. It's trying to hold out for xmas... we'll see if it's successful.

Ron Mylar said...

These are really fabulous and awesome flowers. As they should be blossomed while all the year. And they are grown everywhere.