Did you know there are five types of deserts in the world? It is generally accepted that a desert is defined as land receiving only ten inches of annual rainfall. Some deserts are very hot, but others very cold. Most are home to a wide variety of plants and animals. Deserts cover about twenty percent of our earth and are home to one-sixth of us earthlings.
The five types of deserts are subtropical (the Sonoran Desert in Arizona), coastal (the Atacama Desert in Chile is covered with fog, but rarely has rainfall), rain shadow (Death Valley in Nevada is in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountains), interior (the Gobi Desert in China) and polar (obviously in the Arctic and Antarctic). I certainly never thought of polar areas as deserts, but even though they contain a lot of water, it’s not available because it is frozen.
As I was looking up information for this article, I was researching deserts, expecting to find my favorite houseplant – the Christmas cactus. I love the way it brightens up our gloomy, gray days. Unlike other cacti, I found that the Christmas cactus doesn’t grow in a desert. It is a succulent native found in tropical rainforests. Now I’m trying to find out why it is called a cactus…
To further complicate research about this darling plant, I found there are three types of “holiday” cacti – Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncate) usually blooms mid-November until January. Its leaf segments have pincers – pointy hooks at the end. Native to Brazil, hummingbirds love the long flowers.
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) have plain, square-shaped leaf segments that can easily be pinched off to start another plant. Just stick a segment or two into some potting soil and soon you will have another plant to share. It blooms from late November to February. If you start now, you will have a windowsill full of Christmas gifts for next year.
Easter cactus (Rhipasalidopsis gaertneri) have plumper, rounded leaf segments and its star-shaped petals open in the morning and close at night. It blooms from mid-March until May.
Holiday cacti are easy to find. Take one home and let it brighten your surroundings.