Lo­cal woman do­nates Christ­mas cac­tus heir­loom

Plant, at nearly 100 years old, now part of Mel­wood pro­gram

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By MICHAEL REID [email protected]­news.com

Dianna Worth re­cently lost her hus­band, and to help keep his mem­ory alive, she re­cently do­nated a fam­ily heir­loom to Mel­wood’s hor­ti­cul­tural pro­gram.

Worth, of Dunkirk, said the Christ­mas cac­tus, which her hus­band Ed­ward re­called from his child­hood on the fam­ily farm, is about 100 years old.

“Ed­ward re­mem­bered his mother hav­ing the cac­tus,” Dianna Worth said of her late hus­band, who was born in 1928. “Be­fore his mother passed, she gave it to her son, and it just kept get­ting big­ger and big­ger and grow­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia.com, Christ­mas cacti be­long to the Sch­lum­berg­era genus, which con­sist of six to nine species found in the coastal moun­tains of south­east­ern Brazil. In the North­ern Hemi­sphere they are Christ­mas cac­tus, Thanks­giv­ing cac­tus, crab cac­tus and hol­i­day cac­tus. It’s not un­usual for a Christ­mas cac­tus to live for 20, 30 or more years.

Be­cause Dianna Worth was un­able to care for the plant by her­self, she de­cided it should be do­nated.

The botan­i­cal gardens in Washington de­clined to ac­cept the 5-foot-tall plant, so Worth placed a call to Mel­wood, a non­profit that pro­vides jobs and op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple with dif­fer­ing abil­i­ties in the Washington area.

“I thought she was ex­ag­ger­at­ing, be­cause [that size] is just un­heard of, but I had to go see it,” Mel­wood Green­house Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Ed­ward Good­man said when in­formed the plant was nearly 5 feet high. “A lot of these plants are passed down as fam­ily heir­looms. It’s a com­mon plant, but more [of­ten than not they’re] the size of maybe a teacup or saucer. We have some in our green­house that we prop­a­gated two years ago that are only the size of two fists. This is the old­est one I’m aware of.”

But Good­man was in for a sur­prise when he ar­rived later that day to pick up the fam­ily heir-

loom.

“My jaw dropped; I was to­tally wrong,” he said. “I was ex­pect­ing a plant much smaller and I walked in [to get it], my jaw just hit the floor. I’m think­ing, ‘This is se­ri­ous.’ You can tell it’s old by how large and cal­lused [the branches] are. You can see it stops hav­ing these repet­i­tive, fleshy green parts to it and it goes into this cal­lused and re­ally thick can­ker­ous stem. I’ve never seen that [on this type of plant] be­fore. It’s the largest and most un­usual spec­i­men I’ve ever seen.”

And for Ed­ward Worth’s fam­ily, the plant was one of his most prized pos­ses­sions.

“Oh, he loved it so much,” Dianna said of her hus­band, who died Aug. 20. “If peo­ple came to visit, that’s what he showed them first. It was his pride and joy.”

Ed­ward kept the cac­tus in the sun­room of the fam­ily home for sev­eral months, and the cou­ple had to heat the room specif­i­cally for the plant.

“I had to keep the house warm,” Dianna said, “be­cause if he let it freeze, that would be one thing, but not me. He would get up in the mid­dle of the night and check the [ther­mo­stat] just to make sure it was warm enough. He loved that plant. It was his mom’s plant and he wanted to take care of it.”

The cac­tus even oc­cu­pied a place of honor as it sat atop a wooden ta­ble hand­crafted by Dianna’s late un­cle, Ward Har­mon, who be­queathed it to the cou­ple.

Ed­ward spent his fi­nal weeks in the sun­room with the cac­tus and Dian- na said the death of her hus­band, and the de­par­ture of the cac­tus a few weeks later, shared sev­eral sim­i­lar­i­ties.

“When he passed away they wrapped him up and then they wrapped the plant up, the hearse backed up to the garage and [the truck car­ry­ing the plant backed up] to the garage and they were both be­ing held gen­tly,” Dianna Worth said, her voice crack­ing. “It was very dif­fi­cult.

Good­man, who showed up to take pos­ses­sion pf the plant the day af­ter he re­ceived the call, said he’s hon­ored to take pos­ses­sion of the Worth fam­ily heir­loom.

“It’s pro­vided a lot of clo­sure for the fam­ily and we’ll con­tinue to honor her late hus­band by car­ing for some­thing he cared for his en­tire life,” said Good­man, who is also re­fin­ish­ing the small ta­ble. “I rec­og­nize the love her fam­ily put into it, and I would like to carry that on. I know how much they cared for it so that’s why I want to do her fam­ily jus­tice.”

“I’m happy it’s there be­ing taken care of,” said Dianna, who told The Calvert Recorder she planned to stop by and see the cac­tus over the hol­i­days. “When you’ve had some­thing all your life and taken care of it and nur­tured it and she must have re­ally loved it — his mother passed away, but he couldn’t let the plant pass away be­cause it was a mem­ory of his mother. It’s all he had left.”

STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL REID

Mel­wood Mar­ket­ing and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Spe­cial­ist Sara New­man, left, and Mel­wood Green­house Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Ed­ward Good­man ex­am­ine the fam­ily heir­loom Christ­mas cac­tus do­nated by Dunkirk res­i­dent Dianna Worth.

STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL REID

Mel­wood Green­house Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Ed­ward Good­man, left, and Mel­wood Mar­ket­ing and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Spe­cial­ist Sara New­man ex­am­ine the fam­ily heir­loom Christ­mas cac­tus do­nated by Dunkirk res­i­dent Dianna Worth.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTOS

Above left, Dianna and Ed­ward Worth took care of a Christ­mas cac­tus that was pre­vi­ously owned by Ed­ward’s mother, Mary Worth. Above right, Ed­ward Worth re­called his mother Mary Worth tak­ing care of the Christ­mas cac­tus when he was a young boy. Right, Ed­ward Worth poses with the Christ­mas cac­tus in full bloom sev­eral years ago.

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