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.