My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.

Mon, 01 Mar, 2004

R.I.P. Spinoza the cactus (c.1993-2004)

Before I get back to math, I have sad news to report. "Spinoza," my Golden Barrel cactus, expired in February 2004. I regret to say that it is my fault. In a frenzy of re-potting, I re-potted Spinoza as well as numerous other plants. The cactus seemed to do well in its new pot but I made the mistake of overwatering it in the wintertime and soon it began to turn brown and finally it collapsed.

"Spinoza" was given to me by a dear friend from the Boston area in the mid-'90s. It was my first cactus, though I've been keeping lots of indoor plants for more than 30 years. The cactus was an Echinocactus grusonii, known as the "Golden Barrel" among other names. Though it's a popular domestic plant, it's nearly extinct in the wild. It grows very slowly, and a specimen as big as a football might be over 20 years old. Mine was probably about 10 to 12 years old at the time of its demise.

I called it "Spinoza" because it was so spiny or in Latin, "spinosus." Unfortunately, I didn't know how to take care of it. In the beginning I placed it in direct sunlight, assuming that as a cactus it would belong there, but I soon learned that this cactus is actually damaged by direct sunlight. It's also affected by cold. It survived sun and cold damage, as well as an infestation of mealy bugs. It grew to about twice the size it was when I acquired it, and I thought that despite its hard life I would grow old with it. But it won't happen, at least not with this cactus.

The carcass is not a pretty sight. I have been watching it collapse for a couple of weeks now. Eventually it will be an unsightly mass of decayed spiky vegetable matter, and I'll have to throw it into the ditch out in back of my house where I throw all my other garden waste to return it to "nature."

I have other cacti now, many of them grown from seed. I know more about taking care of them now. I don't know whether I'll get another Golden Barrel, though. I will conclude with a note about cacti and mathematics. In many cacti, including the Golden Barrel, the tufts of spines are arranged in the famous Fibonacci sequence which also shows up in the patterns of seeds in a sunflower's center as well as in the seed patterns of pine cones. Cacti die, but Fibonacci's sequence is forever.

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