Pharyngula

Galápagos Album: Lava cactus

(For some reason, my wife loved the lava cactus, and I’ve got so many photos of them…)

Comments

  1. #1 Ranson
    September 3, 2008

    That’s cool. Looks like a giant bread mold to me.

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    September 3, 2008

    The spines are kind of a tipoff that, uh, the shape isn’t due to a common designer of…

    More seriously, how much root do those things have? To a first approximation, it would appear to be none.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  3. #3 thepetey
    September 3, 2008

    YAY
    LAVA COCKS

  4. #4 dcb
    September 3, 2008

    Looks like something out of Parallel Botany.

  5. #5 Falyne, FCD
    September 3, 2008

    Erm. Erm-HRM.

    Yeah, the spines look ouchy and bad, but the design is *quite* similar.

  6. #6 zer0
    September 3, 2008

    PENIS PLANTS!!!!!!!!!!

  7. #7 abb3w
    September 3, 2008

    Paging doctor Freud….

    But sometimes a pretty cactus is just a pretty cactus.

  8. #8 Dan B.
    September 3, 2008

    I join the chorus of “hurray for lava-cactus-penises!”

  9. #9 alex
    September 3, 2008

    i imagine Dr Mark Rose of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association would have something to say about those cacti.

  10. #10 Sili
    September 3, 2008

    The shapes are rather reminiscent of inkcap and stinkhorn, yes.

    The colours are nice. Presumably these aren’t traded on the open market? Pity.

  11. #11 clinteas
    September 3, 2008

    I am experiencing cactus envy.

  12. #12 Dr. Matt
    September 3, 2008

    That’s Brachycereus nesioticus, a phylogenetically isolated cactus endemic to lava fields in the Galapagos. I’ve never seen one in person (it’s not in cultivation to any meaningful extent), and am totally jealous.

  13. #13 whateverman
    September 3, 2008

    Very cool.

  14. #15 Duae Quartunciae
    September 3, 2008

    They are remarkable! Maybe she was impressed because she had never s…

    No, I can’t do it. Too much of a straight line.

  15. #16 Qwerty
    September 3, 2008

    There’s a theme in these posts which I’ll continue. They look like dynamic dildoos.

  16. #17 S.Scott
    September 3, 2008

    I’ve erased my comment 5 times … I just can’t do it … not even here. But I can tell you that I’m gald I am not naked and do not suffer from a certain medical condition.

  17. #18 ThirtyFiveUp
    September 3, 2008

    S.Scott #17

    Hmmmm, did you mean to type geld?

  18. #19 Patricia
    September 3, 2008

    er…excuse me guys – didn’t you notice the SPINES? Euuw, that just takes all the squidgey out of them.

  19. #20 Confuseddave
    September 3, 2008

    Is… is that one that’s fallen over?

    Somehow it looks incredibly cute… o_0

  20. #21 Sili
    September 3, 2008

    We did, Patricia.

    But some people consider those a feature, not a bug. (Well, the thread derailed from the start, so I doubt I have to warn about that link …)

  21. #22 RM
    September 3, 2008

    Does size matter in cacti?

  22. #23 Longtime Lurker
    September 3, 2008

    Lava Cactus or Lover Cactus?

    If there were an intelligent designer, the spines would be made out of latex!

  23. #24 Holbach
    September 3, 2008

    Coral reef on land!

  24. #25 Brownian, OM
    September 3, 2008

    See? This is why so many theists hate science and scientists. Nature is all sex and reproduction and dirty, dirty shapes.

    As long as nature keeps flaunting sex in the face of believers, it’s going to come across as vile and degenerate. Who wouldn’t prefer the scala naturŠ to a unified theory of life in which we’re related (even if distantly) to nasty, prurient beasties. Nature suffers from an image problem, and I think we can all look at poor framing such as this and immediately see why.

    Which brings me to you, Mr. B. nesioticus. Angry, grumpy, uncharismatically-phallic loner of a cactus–you’re hurting the image of nature! When eminent geneticist Francis Collins saw God in nature, was he looking at a collection of dong-like cacti? No, he saw design and order in a frozen waterfall, with nary a genital in sight. Do you really want to offend moderates like him? Do you really want to turn him from our side?

    Ultimately, I look forward to the day when humankind and naturekind can live together in harmony. Perhaps we’ll sing, or share a Coke. But until then, we must live with the fact that 95% of the population believes in some form of deity or another that disapproves of sexuality, and cacti like this sure as hell aren’t helping the cause.

  25. #26 Monsignor Henry Clay
    September 3, 2008

    #3 is full of win.

    Ooh, baby, every time we kiss, hot lava
    Every time that we make love, thats’s lava, hot lava
    Lava so hot it makes me sweat,
    Lava so warm and red and wet

  26. #27 pvrugg
    September 3, 2008

    Hmmm….
    Was this plant rude or abusive or just plain mean to you or your wife? Because it looks like some kind of dickweed to me…

    mmmmm… dickweed….

  27. #28 Peter Ashby
    September 3, 2008

    C’mon PZ you must see it? any organism that can colonize a bare lava field is well and truly worthy of wonder (yes, I know the funghi and bacteria enable it, they are wonderful too).

  28. #29 AxisofJared
    September 3, 2008

    I can’t believe no one has coined the word “Cocktus” yet.

  29. #30 Richard Smith
    September 3, 2008

    If you grabbed one, you’d get a nasty prick!

  30. #31 blf
    September 3, 2008

    Looks to me like a school of confused fat squid have buried their heads in the lava, leaving only the tips of their arms and tentacles waving about.

  31. #32 Michelle
    September 3, 2008

    …I would do a cock joke but it looks like everyone did ‘em already.

    Wow… I had no idea nature was so perverted. I like that!

  32. #33 Bill
    September 3, 2008

    That’s amazing, for a brief second before reading your description I imagined some sort of land sponge. Excellent photo as well.

  33. #34 TimN
    September 3, 2008

    The root systems of Cacti vary considerably. There are many species like these Brachycereus nesioticus which grow on pure rock. They find a small crack and just go to town. If the plant can get enough moisture/nutrients to survive it doesn’t need much in the way of roots. When certain species of cacti are stressed they lose their roots and grow new ones when conditions improve.

    Other cacti on the other hand have enormous swollen roots that store moisture and nutrients. An Arizona native, Peniocereus greggii, can grow a root up to 60lbs underground while the above-ground parts are long, slender segments that rest amongst the other plants. You normally only notice the stems when they are in flower. The rest of the time they just blend in with the native bushes.

    Galapagos cacti are unique and only appear on Galapagos. I believe there is only one other species, a tall, tree-like prickly pear called Opuntia echios. The Opuntia genus has many other related members in north and south America, but Brachycereus genus has only one member.

    Tim

  34. #35 IBY
    September 3, 2008

    Those are cactus! They look weird. I already fell in love with them. ^_^

  35. #36 Patricia
    September 3, 2008

    #21 – Sili – You got me with that one. Sheese! ;)

  36. #37 Ashley
    September 3, 2008

    # 30

    That was an epic win. You get an A.

  37. #38 Ashley
    September 3, 2008

    I meant number 29. Oops!

  38. #39 Scott Hatfield
    September 3, 2008

    Brownian @ #25:

    See? This is why so many theists hate science and scientists. Nature is all sex and reproduction and dirty, dirty shapes.

    Funny, I looked at the photo and immediately imported it into my collection so I could…um….read the articles.

    Seriously, my actual first reaction was slack-jawed wonder: how do these cacti manage to thrive in frickin’ lava fields, when I manage to kill every tomato plant I own regardless of what I pot them in? These are amazing and beautiful plants, and just give me another reason to make the ‘pilgrimage’ to the Galapagos.

    It’s sad that many theists are as Brownian described. They are cheating themselves of wonder and wrapping themselves in chains. The idea that nature has been perverted in an attempt to deceive us is sadly still with us, but that viewpoint has always been an outlier, even amongst evangelicals. There are plenty of religious traditions that celebrate, rather than defame, the beauty and creative power of nature.

  39. #40 Nerd of Redhead
    September 3, 2008

    Curious color. Does it take a certain level of maturity for the cactus to turn green?

  40. #41 Bride of Shrek OM
    September 3, 2008

    Weirdly, all I could see in that moth a few threads back was a penis whilst people were claiming to see Jesus…

    Now you’re all talking penises and I only see a big bunch of Jesuses( ?Jesii, ?Jesium)

  41. #42 Monado
    September 3, 2008

    “It is really very simple what the psyche tries to hide:
    A thing is a phallic symbol if it’s longer than it’s wide!”
    –Psychotherapy

  42. #43 Brownian, OM
    September 3, 2008

    It’s sad that many theists are as Brownian described. They are cheating themselves of wonder and wrapping themselves in chains. The idea that nature has been perverted in an attempt to deceive us is sadly still with us, but that viewpoint has always been an outlier, even amongst evangelicals. There are plenty of religious traditions that celebrate, rather than defame, the beauty and creative power of nature.

    By a wide margin Scott, the majority of religious people I’ve personally known (and the entirety of the religious people I’ve personally been) are of the celebratory types you’ve described. In fact, I’d go so far as to hypothesize that that the sense of wonderment and awe (for convenience, if not accuracy, I’ll use numinous) that both theists and atheists share exists because it’s evolutionarily advantageous, and that we as a species are inclined to experience it when encountering unusual or otherwise noteworthy natural phenomena.

    However, my parody was not actually aimed at the religious, but more so towards Nisbet and his categorization of science and/or atheism as products that must be sold via effective framing. There is no volition on the part of the cactus to stimulate or offend us; our reaction to it is a trait endemic to us as a species. Many theists perceive this reaction as evidence of a deity or more, but most atheists see it simply as a fact that is. Neither group should try to frame it into some NOMA where we pretend our worldviews don’t have some serious incompatibilities.

    But I do think it’s a wonderful thing that at the very least, we can all look at that funny phallic cactus that thrives in a hostile environment and say, “Wow! That’s [expletive-deleted] awesome!”

    Hmmm. Apparently that wasn’t as well-crafted a parody as I thought.

  43. #44 Crudely Wrott
    September 3, 2008

    Sometimes I get a double kick out of an image of the world around me. In this case I see what appears to be a fairly new lava flow. It is very much like a layer of rock that suddenly covered (what must have formerly been) fertile ground, thereby preventing any extant plant life to flourish. It is a dead zone and it is not soil. And no vegetarian critters could find eat.

    But, lo! Here are the plant champions of sere and dry climes, stretching up into the light, full and straight in their enthusiasm. Out of an apparent nothing grows an unexpected wonder.

    Double payoff? One, sure reminds me of evolution taking advantage of advantageous circumstances. Two, sure reminds me of free enterprise taking advantage of advantageous circumstances. Three, sure reminds me of how most people live most of their lives.

    The triple payoff is . . .

  44. #45 wooddragon
    September 3, 2008

    Isn’t that just, um, phallic?

    Way cool!

  45. #46 Scott Hatfield, OM
    September 3, 2008

    Brownian @ #43:

    By a wide margin Scott, the majority of religious people I’ve personally known (and the entirety of the religious people I’ve personally been) are of the celebratory types you’ve described.

    You’re being generous, which is much appreciated. Ironically, since I live in Fresno, you may have more experience with the above than I do!

    In fact, I’d go so far as to hypothesize that that the sense of wonderment and awe (for convenience, if not accuracy, I’ll use numinous) that both theists and atheists share exists because it’s evolutionarily advantageous, and that we as a species are inclined to experience it when encountering unusual or otherwise noteworthy natural phenomena.

    I’d like to think that the capacity for wonder has been selected for, but again, as a high school teacher the kids that I encounter more often than not have had the wonder stomped out of them by the upbringing. Still, I hope you’re right, because if so, in the long run, science will thrive.

    However, my parody was not actually aimed at the religious, but more so towards Nisbet and his categorization of science and/or atheism as products that must be sold via effective framing.

    Sorry, I genuinely missed that allusion. Awhile back there was a discussion in which Prof. Nisbet seized upon some remarks of mine regarding choices for Presidential Science Advisor, and I was quick to offer him correction on his blog. I tried to be polite in my note, but I really felt that in his haste to advance his own agenda he had quoted me out of context.

    Many theists perceive this reaction as evidence of a deity or more, but most atheists see it simply as a fact that is. Neither group should try to frame it into some NOMA where we pretend our worldviews don’t have some serious incompatibilities.

    I agree. It does a serious disservice to both science and faith to pretend that the claims, or the consequences of claims do not impinge upon each other’s domains. My take is not that science and faith fail to overlap, but rather that their eschatological boundaries are poorly defined. We can not better define them without dialogue and interaction between the domains. The latter should be possible without insisting upon any ideological litmus test one way or the other.

    But I do think it’s a wonderful thing that at the very least, we can all look at that funny phallic cactus that thrives in a hostile environment and say, “Wow! That’s [expletive-deleted] awesome!”

    Well, I give that an “A-[profane infix implied]-men!”

  46. #47 Wayne Robinson
    September 4, 2008

    The first thing I thought of when I saw the photo was fingers grasping for PZ’s money. I can’t imagine what else they are supposed to make me think of…

  47. #48 Brownian, OM
    September 4, 2008

    Thanks Scott.

    I’ve always valued and respected your opinion, and am happy to hear your take from the ‘other side’, as it were.

    Lovers of science unite!

  48. #49 Lars Dietz
    September 4, 2008

    “Galapagos cacti are unique and only appear on Galapagos. I believe there is only one other species, a tall, tree-like prickly pear called Opuntia echios.”

    There’s also Jasminocereus:
    http://www.desert-tropicals.com/Plants/Cactaceae/Cereus_thouarsii.html

    According to molecular analyses, it’s the closest relative of Brachycereus. So that’s another endemic Galapagos clade that has radiated into very different shapes.

  49. #50 Marie the Bookwyrm
    September 4, 2008

    Hmmmm. For some reason his wife really loved the lava cactus. I wonder what that reason might have been *smirk*.

  50. #51 Richard Smith
    September 5, 2008

    @Ashley (#38): I meant number 29. Oops!

    snif For one shining moment, at least, I knew true happiness…

  51. #52 Mar
    October 17, 2008

    I love catus plants.I have cactuses garden in my backyard and I’m enjoying it. I find my plants exciting to watch everyday.

    Mar

  52. #53 Mar
    October 17, 2008

    I love catus plants.I have cactuses garden in my backyard and I’m enjoying it everyday.

    Mar

  53. #54 Mar
    October 17, 2008

    I love catus plants.I have cactuses garden in my backyard and I’m enjoying it everyday.

    Mar

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