The Powderkeg Cactus
The Powderkeg Cactus (Ferocactus Unguentumarcha) is a type of cactus indigenous to the American West. It is easily distinguishable by its brown color, black horizontal bands, and barrel-like size and shape. These unique characteristics have allowed it to avoid extinction when man arrived in the region by conforming to the altered surroundings.
Powderkeg Cacti were typically found around saloons in the Old West, where they mimicked the powderkegs that stood around them. Some of these cacti even developed elaborate black patterns on their sides, which from a distance and at a certain light, looked like the word "POWDER." Over the years, the cactus also developed immunity to bullets, and was often used as a hiding spot in gunfights. The sharper cowboys actually preferred the cactus, as they knew that hiding behind an actual powderkeg is not such a smart idea.
The fruit of the Powderkeg Cactus grows on top of the barrel body of the plant, and looks somewhat like a beer mug, with the seeds concentrated in the handle-like protrusion. The cactus developed a unique way of spreading its seeds: when the town drunk inevitably tried to pick up the “beer” standing on the “keg” the thorny seeds on the handle clung to his hand. The man would then rub his hand on his pant leg in an attempt to get rid of the stinging sensation, which would allow the seeds to attach themselves to the fabric. The seeds can stay suspended in this dormant stage for weeks, even months, until the pants are finally washed in a nearby stream.
Once the seeds come into contact with water, they plump up and drift down the river, to end up in the pans of prospectors searching the bottom of the stream for gold. The seeds cling to their wet sleeves or beards, until they return to town. When the prospectors jump around in front of the saloon, announcing they have found gold, the seeds finally drop to the ground and begin their germination with a sufficient supply of water for the process.
In recent years the Powderkeg Cactus has become increasingly rare, usually found only in ghost towns and on Hollywood sets, which have themselves become quite rare since the decline of the Western genre. The largest collection of Powderkeg Cacti can be found in "The Powderkeg Cactus Conservation Ranch" just north of San Diego, where the cacti are preserved and bred by artificial insemination using specially trained “drunks” and “prospectors” recruited through guest worker initiatives in Mexico and India.
Posted by S.K. Azoulay