Cactus (saboten)


Cactus (saboten)

***** Location: Japan, other areas
***** Season: Late Summer
***** Category: Plant


Cactus, saboten 仙人掌 (さぼてん, サボテン)
..... 覇王樹(さぼてん)
flower of the cactus, saboten no hana 仙人掌の花(さぼてんのはな)

The Japanese word comes from the portugese sabao, meaning soap and te, hands.
The Chinese characters 仙人掌 signify the praying hands of a mountain hermit.



A cactus (plural cacti, cactuses or cactus) is any member of the succulent plant family Cactaceae, native to the Americas. They are often used as ornamental plants, but some are also crop plants.

Cacti are distinctive and unusual plants, which are adapted to extremely arid and hot environments, showing a wide range of anatomical and physiological features which conserve water. Their stems have expanded into green succulent structures containing the chlorophyll necessary for life and growth, while the leaves have become the spines for which cacti are so well known.

Cacti come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. The tallest is Pachycereus pringlei, with a maximum recorded height of 19.2 m, and the smallest is Blossfeldia liliputiana, only about 1 cm diameter at maturity. Cactus flowers are large, and like the spines and branches arise from areoles. Many cactus species are night blooming, as they are pollinated by nocturnal insects or small animals, principally moths, bats, and sheep. Cacti's sizes range from small and round to pole-like and tall.

Among the remains of the Aztec civilization cacti can be found repeatedly in pictorial representations, sculpture and drawings, principally Echinocactus grusonii. This cactus, also known as "Mother-in-law's Cushion", has great ritual significance - human sacrifices were carried out on these cacti. Tenochtitlan (the earlier name of Mexico City) means "place of the sacred cactus". The Coat of arms of Mexico to this day show an eagle, snake and cactus.

Economic exploitation of the cactus can also be traced back to the Aztecs. The North American Indians exploit the alkaloid content of many cactuses for ritual purposes. Today, besides their use as foodstuffs (jam, fruit, vegetables), their principal use is as a host for the cochineal insect, from which a red dye (carmine) is obtained which is used in Campari or high-quality lipsticks. Particularly in South America dead pillar cacti yield valuable wood for construction. Some cactuses are also of pharmaceutical significance.

From the moment of their discovery by early European explorers cacti have aroused much interest: Christopher Columbus brought the first melocactuses to Europe. Scientific interest in them began in the 17th century. By 1737 24 species were known, which Linné grouped together as the genus "Cactus". With the passage of time cactuses enjoyed increasing popularity: sometimes they were of scientific interest only; at other times as fashionable plants they enjoyed a real boom.

From the beginning of the 20th century interest in cacti has increased steadily, interrupted only by the two world wars. This was accompanied by a rising commercial interest, the negative consequences of which culminated in raids on the cactuses' native habitats, resulting in the extermination of many species. Through the great number of cactus admirers, whether their interest is scientific or hobby-oriented, new species and varieties are even today discovered every year.

© WIKIPEDIA has more !

Worldwide use


I open my window
a cactus flower unfurls
in the desert

Sandip Sital Chauhan
Joys of Japan, February 2012


Things found on the way

Musings from the Sonoran Desert


saboten no same hada mireba aki no kaze

looking at the shark skin
of a cactus...
autumn wind


saboten wa oogatten ka kesa no shimo

does the cactus
grasp the great truth?
morning frost

Issa, Tr. David Lanoue


a cactus bloom's
yellow translucence
blacktop highway

Allen McGill, tinywords 2003


hotpink blooms
hedgehog cactus
hailing summer

Izabel Sonia Ganz, 1998

Related words

***** Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) Weihnachtskaktus


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a facelessly dull
autumn evening

saboten ya nopperaboo no aki no yuu


by Issa, 1814

Saboten is a cochineal cactus. The word nopperaboo can describe something that is unchanging and not interesting.
It can also refer to a goblin who lacks eyes, mouth and nose. In my translation, I attempt to suggest both meanings; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1296.

Tr. David Lanoue