Crested Blue Flame

(Myrtillocactus geometrizans var. ‘cristata’)

A Crested Blue Flame cactus in the specimen beds at Sunnylands Center and Gardens.

Crested Blue Flame is in the north specimen bed nearest the Café and Solar Field. It’s easily identified by its shape, which is a series of heavily folded skin. It makes it eye-catching. This feature has resulted in a variety of common names including Dinosaur Back, as well as “Crested” followed by multiple descriptive names. All an attempt to capture this unique growth pattern.

The pattern could best described as clustering, since it grows a trunk-like center crest, and then sends up additional stems that will grow around each other, thus forming a cluster. It makes an interesting addition to any garden space as quite an attractive curiosity.

At Sunnylands, it elicits questions from visitors, including “What’s wrong with that cactus?” For those used to more recognizable patterns of barrel, columnar, and pad producing cactus, this one is a surprise.

It’s also a growth pattern we see in other ecosystems, like the coral reefs. The corals are colonies of organisms that act as one, but the cactus creates this visual effect as a single organism.

The blooms are small with radiating petals and greenish-white in color.

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