Popular culture has trained us to associate mutation with marauding bandits in a post apocalyptic landscape or a certain group of sewer-bound superheroes. But in reality, mutations are far more benign. In the world of cacti and succulents, mutation often makes for a fascinating and visually impressive specimen worthy of a prominent spot in a collectors menagerie. In particular, we’re referring to the condition known as fasciation, more commonly known as cresting. This fairly rare condition can affect most vascular plants but in our opinion it’s always the most impressive when it’s affecting cacti.
So What Forms a Crested Cactus?
Usually the growing tip of a plant is focused on one point which produces normal, cylindrical tissue growth. When you have a crested plant, the growing tip becomes elongated perpendicularly to the direction of normal growth due to one of several factors which we’ll describe below. The result is a twisting, swirling mass of plant tissue which begins to takes on the a folded, wave-like appearance as it twists in upon itself. No two crests are the same and the condition can dramatically alter the look of a specimen over the course of it’s lifespan.
What Causes a Plant to Crest?
There are a number of reasons a plant can start to crest, ranging from genetics to damage as well as other environmental factors. Cresting is not contagious so if you decide to add one to your collection, you won’t run any risk of your other specimens suddenly taking on bizarre forms to match the look of your latest addition. Given the fairly rare occurrence of this condition, crested specimens should be celebrated and treasured rather than regarded with fear and apprehension. We won’t deny that some look like they’d snap up a bird or two if they could but that’s just fantasy talk…or is it?
Presently we have a number of crested cactus specimens on hand at the nursery with more always coming in and out of rotation. If cool plant mutations are your thing, feel free to reach out and we’ll be happy to help you find one that’s perfect to compliment your collection.