This schlumbergera has been flowering beautifully, firstly in the greenhouse and then the house, for the last couple of weeks. Although it is a true cactus, unlike the stereotypical vicious desert species its natural habitat is in mountainous Brazil where it grows either epiphatically in trees or epilithically on rocks. These plants are commonly known as Christmas Cactus in this country, Thanksgiving Cactus in the US. It is however a combination of day length and temperature, known as thermo-photoperiodic, that govern the exact time of year it will bloom. When it experiences at least 12 hours of darkness and a night time temperature of between 55-65C bud formation is instigated. By reproducing these conditions artificially the plant can be fooled into breaking into bloom at any time. This is undertaken commercially to produce plants that are in flower and ready for sale at any time of the year. The flowers, which are pollinated by hummingbirds in the wild, appear at the end of flat jointed modified stems. These stems are called cladodes and are able to both store water and photosynthesise.
The genus has six species and there are many cultivars and this particular one is unknown. It is one of the dreaded inherited pot plants which we have been systematic culling. One look at the bloom and the reason it has escaped the fate of the others is obvious. The perfectly shaped white petals with a hint of pink lead our eyes with a jolt to the shocking cerise style and stigma. And what could be better than a non prickly cactus?