Schlumbergera, affectionately known as the Christmas Cactus, has become an integral part of my family. This simple green succulent has been in the background throughout my entire childhood. Everywhere we moved, my mother was careful to make sure it was well cared for but, like most plants, it lived in the background. It was there when I came home from the hospital as an infant in Washington. It was there the first time I broke a bone in Oregon. It was there when I graduated high school in California. This plant has been there through it all.
Only after moving away from home did I discover that the tradition of caring for a Christmas Cactus extends beyond my immediate family. On a recent visit with my grandfather, I saw that he had a glorious Christmas Cactus in his kitchen. It was massive, healthy and blooming with the same ornate red flowers that I remembered from my childhood. As if he knew what was going through my head, he began to explain that his plant was the daughter of ours and that he acquired it when we were all living in Oregon some 15 years ago. Taking care of that plant was a way to connect with my family, even after we moved thousands of miles apart.
Now that all of my siblings have left the nest we all have a Christmas Cactus of our own so that we can always find home.
Author: Jordan Palka
Click to read a poem about “Social Botany.”