Monday, April 4, 2011

Strawflower cactus rant

I realize that by posting this I’m professing my ignorance about something that is probably a lot more common than I ever knew. I must be too much of a babe in the woods to realize that there’s very little the nursery industry won’t do to make a buck. But could it be that they’re just giving people what they want? That’s an even more horrendous thought!

Until now I thought that sticking googly eyes on cacti is the height of tackiness and should be punished as plant torture.

But today I found something even more insidious. I was at Lowe’s today (a large U.S. home improvement chain, for non U.S. readers) and they had tray upon tray of blooming cacti. The spooky thing was that the blossoms all looked the same even though the cacti were from many different genera. The price label said “strawflower cactus”, which didn’t mean anything to me at first. I continued browsing and finally found a really nice 3“ Opuntia johnsonii that had both a new pad forming and one of these perfect “strawflowers”. As I was getting ready to put it in my cart, I saw there there was a strand of plastic filament attached to it. I carefully grabbed it and pulled it away from the cactus, and in front my eyes—which were literally turning into googly eyes!!!—the flower fell off the cactus as the filament of glue(!) become unraveled. Yes, dear readers, the “strawflower” was just that: the bloom of a strawflower, hot-glued to the poor cactus.

I felt cheated and began to look around to see if there were other customers nearby that I could share my outrage with, but pretty soon I began to laugh. Tray upon tray—probably more than a hundred—cacti with multi-colored strawflowers glued onto them.

When I got home, I did a quick Google search, and apparently it’s a very common practice. The flower is the bract of Xerochrysum bracteatum, commonly called “golden everlasting,” and even though it’s dead, it still opens and closes based on changes in humidity and temperature. Apparently these flowers last for years—which is obviously much, much, much longer than a real cactus flower ever would. I suppose I can see the attraction of a flower that doesn’t die. After all, that’s why people buy artificial plants.

Whenever I see a cactus flower now I will look very closely. Not just at the flower per se, but also at the telltale signs of hot-glue residue.

26 comments:

  1. I'm glad you mentioned this, as I was going to ask you about it. All of the cactus at Home Depot have flowers hot-glued on them. I first noticed it when I was picking out plants for the terrarium redo this winter -- I thought it was strange that they were flowering in the middle of winter under the crappy flourescent lighting. I too saw the hot glue, although I just assumed the flowers were artificial. There were all different colors of blooms too.

    Having never seen a cactus flower in person before (as far as I can remember), the only thing that made me question was every species was flowering at the same time, with similar flowers.

    At least it wasn't googly eyes PLUS the fake flower.

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    It's not work, it's gardening!
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  2. Alan, right now, all the garden centers around here sell cacti that really are in bloom (hauled up from Southern California) so I didn't notice it right away. I did feel like a fool initially but then I thought it was hilarious. I bet most people who buy these have no idea that the flowers are fake, at least not right away.

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  3. That is dreadful and misleading! I have seen echeverias in garden sections of dept stores that, from a distance, looked like they were showing interesting colourations (yellows, purples and blues) however once I got up close I realised they had been spray painted!! I felt so sorry for them but wasn't about to pay a hefty amount to liberate them, as they weren't cheap. I don't think they would have lived very long anyway - they didn't look too healthy, unsurprisingly. Does anyone truly fall for these tactics or if they do, are they annoyed or amused?

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  4. The ONE thing I like about these things are that they go on sale if the flower starts to look bad. You just have to make sure no permanent damage was done by the hot glue gun. At my local Lowes I got a Mammillaria spinosissima for $0.50!!!! I ALWAYS check the clearance section now, looking for finds.

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  5. H I just became a sucker to the 'strawflower too'! What's even worse are the cacti at Walmart in tiny rocks. I looked and looked at these plants because though they were apparently the same species, some were of a pinkish color which seemed weird. On second visit I picked lip one and planned to buy it. That was when I noticed that the rocks were glued to each other as one solid chunk and also glued to the plant! Jeez. Talk about disgusted. This was horrid

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  6. H I just became a sucker to the 'strawflower too'! What's even worse are the cacti at Walmart in tiny rocks. I looked and looked at these plants because though they were apparently the same species, some were of a pinkish color which seemed weird. On second visit I picked lip one and planned to buy it. That was when I noticed that the rocks were glued to each other as one solid chunk and also glued to the plant! Jeez. Talk about disgusted. This was horrid

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  7. Hi .. guess you can add me to the list too!! I fell for it - there were several with Black flowers and I got so excited and picked one I liked ... all the time thinking how strange that they seemed to have different cactus with the same type of flower ... did not notice the glue till I got home - so upset with myself! I'll take the flowers off and keep the plant

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  8. Haha, I was deceived too. Home Depot! I will still take interested in this poor cacti. It suffered the most with the pain of the hot glue. Now to learn how to accommodate this small species of plant life.

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    1. My husband and I talked about it I thought it was glued to then I read and it said it had flowers that color ! I gave I started to think it was real had to be !

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  9. Haha, I was deceived too. Home Depot! I will still take interested in this poor cacti. It suffered the most with the pain of the hot glue. Now to learn how to accommodate this small species of plant life.

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  10. Haha, I was deceived too. Home Depot! I will still take interested in this poor cacti. It suffered the most with the pain of the hot glue. Now to learn how to accommodate this small species of plant life.

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  11. I'm so furious and I feel so dumb. this is an outrage and total disrespect of life. Does anyone know whether if I take these stupid fake flowers off real flowers will grow eventually?

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  12. I'm furious. and sad for these plants. And feel like such an idiot. Does anyone know whether if I take these stupid fake flowers off, real ones might grow eventually?

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    1. im confused here.. they are real... i have one blooming now and i sure didn't glue any strawflowers to it... ???

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    2. mine is blooming.... and I didn't glue mine on. I've had mine for 2 yrs. blooms every year....only once though

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    3. Most cacti do flower, but their flowers never look like a strawflower :-).

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  13. I just noticed this for the first time about a week ago. I was looking at some nice cacti at Home Depot....and had to get a closer look at those flowers....they just looked fake, misplaced, and too perfect. I was outraged to see that they were hot-glued to the cacti. Poor things! I also saw a type of aloe vera plant that was painted blue. Those unrealistic, cheating tactics just make the plants more appealing to me...and feel sorry for the plants...and it makes me not want to buy from those retailers.....but HD does it, and Lowe's, and also Walmart.

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    1. I believe they all come from the same wholesale nursery. I feel bad for the plants. Their only hope are kind-hearted souls who remove the glued-on strawflowers (or wash off the spray paint).

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  14. Annoyed!! Just got my cactus strawflower from Lowes and didn't realize until I got to the car that the "blooms" were hot glued and had fallen off! A quick google search brought up this page. I feel like an idiot as I am clearly cactus info deficient but what the heck Lowes.

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    1. Many of the fakes are quite realistic and it's easy to fall for them :-).

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  15. I just fell for this trap too! I was in Home Depot buying lightbulbs and just had to go to the garden center looking for Cactus (since I have 18 Cactus in my Home) and saw some on the bottom shelf that were 'in-bloom'. Wow! Fool that I was I purchased 2 of them - one a Mammillaria bocasana, and one a Mammillaria elegans. I get them home and realize the flowers are STRAW FLOWERS, and one of them has a huge hard wad of glue on the bottom of the flower! So obviously I won't be able to remove these 'fake flowers' so I'll have to live with'em ! Dang.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear HD is still selling those. I haven't seen them in my local HD lately but they carry other inanities like spray-painted echeverias. When and where will it end?

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  16. OMG, I'm another one who's fallen for this deception! I just moved to New Mexico from Florida, so mind you, these abominations never appeared in the Home Depots or Lowes in Florida. When I went to Lowes here in New Mexico for the first time, I saw these "flowering" cacti and excitedly bought two of them even though I did think the flowers looked oddly positioned. I was looking up how to care for both cacti and found your blog post when I typed "strawflower cactus." My poor cacti! I want to pry the flowers off, but they're super hot-glued on. Argh!

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  17. OMG, I'm another one who's fallen for this deception! I just moved to New Mexico from Florida, so mind you, these abominations never appeared in the Home Depots or Lowes in Florida. When I went to Lowes here in New Mexico for the first time, I saw these "flowering" cacti and excitedly bought two of them even though I did think the flowers looked oddly positioned. I was looking up how to care for both cacti and found your blog post when I typed "strawflower cactus." My poor cacti! I want to pry the flowers off, but they're super hot-glued on. Argh!

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  18. My husband brought home a cactus spray painted a blue color on the tips of the cactus (it looked a lot like an Aloe Vera). He was so excited to find an unusual species. I had to break his heart by telling him it was paint. I don't think he believed me till it started growing off as the cactus grew. Now my husband brings home one with 3 dark blue straw looking flowers on it. AGAIN I was the bearer of bad news. THEN one morning we were on the patio, where we have our morning coffee, and saw the flowers have opened up!!!! This was so awesome. I googled this cactus to find out the name of it and came across this blog. We were so disappointed reading these flowers didn't grow from the cactus (and of course"I" was reading this so had to be the one to burst his bubble :(. I find it amazing what people will do to sell these cacti. Why can't these people just sell these cacti for the natural beauty they already have??!!? With all this being said, we do find it amazing how these, dead, straw flowers react to the weather! Maybe we can start telling if it's going to be a humid day or not by watching these flowers lol.

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