Ric-Rac Cactus

Ric-Rac Cactus, aka:
Anthony's Rick-Rack,
Zig-Zag Cactus, or
Fishbone Orchid Cactus


Cryptocereus anthonyanus (formerly Selenicereus anthonyanus) is an epiphytic cactus from Mexico. It can be grown either in orchid substrate, or in regular cactus potting soil with a bit of humus added. In the wild it attaches itself to trees, clinging by little aerial root filaments along the zigzagging succulent leaves, but is adaptable to terrestrial habits. It can be trained to climb a trellis, but looks best in a hanging basket from whence the lightning-shaped leaves will dangle two to four feet over the edge.

It loves strong yet indirect lighting. It does not need a lot of water & should be permitted to dry out entirely between waterings. It has its limits, however, & we did manage to neglect the plant for some while so that several leaves died, & so we put it in a spot where we'd be more apt to pay attention to it, & it rapidly bounced back with occasional watering.

It is nightblooming, & its flowers last only a single night in spring. It is common that specimens rare or never flower, but when they do so, they are usually rootbound in poor soil, then can produce many white & pink & maroon slender-petaled starburst blossoms, which begin to open right at dusk, releasing a pleasing fragrance intended to attract nocturnal pollinators.

Because the flowers are so quickly spent, this epiphyte is mainly only grown for the strange leaves which lend it the common name Ric-Rac Cactus, or occasionally Zig-Zag or Fishbone Cactus.

The species name is after St. Anthony. With my interest in the folklore of flora, I had to find out if there was a Catholic myth which explains the reason for this name, & it turns out that there is a traditional prayer to Anthony that pleads, "From thunder, lightning & storms, St. Anthony deliver us," for as it turns out, Anthony is called to whenever a Catholic is at risk of death in a blizzard, & might even be regarded as a patron saint of weather forcasting.

Seeking further a story that would explain Anthony's power over fierce weather, it turns out that among his many supernatural visions, induced by fasting & abuse of his own body, he hallucinated himself set-upon by demons in the form of tornados & hailstones & such like, with Satan having the form of a thunderbolt, as is stated in the gospel of Luke [10:18].

So as it turns out, the ric-rac cactus is manifestation of the devil!


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