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First Cacti in Europe

by Alexandr Urban, Prickly Miracle

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Marine expeditions of Columbus for the opening of the new end successfully. Big triumph navigator does not only mean opening the gates to the New World, but also new opportunities for scientific research and thinking. But at the same time has been resolved the fate of the ancient and amazing culture of indigenous people is still an unknown continent, and jeopardized the lives of several million people. The peoples and generations have been sentenced to extinction. It was time of great change, referring to a greater or lesser extent all life - from man to plants.

Return of Columbus to Barcelona was triumphal. He brought a lot of interesting and unseen items, the ship was similar to the ark of Noah. Collect them is easy because of the country, which he opened, it was unusual and different than in Europe, whether a person, animal or plant. Columbus, of course, choose the things that are considered useful. Just did it and in its subsequent trips, so did everyone else, the crowd went shortly to the newly opened country.

Quickly spread in Europe, many unknown to the time of plants, mostly useful. The laws and habits of the old continent have responded to their arrival very different ways. Potatoes, for example, has been promoted and recommended in the highest circles, often without success. Tobacco was strictly forbidden, also without success. After some time, was useless as their advocate, and to prohibit. They quickly spread throughout the world, and today we even begin to imagine life without them. In the same way in Europe and got a lot of other plants, since different kinds of fruits and vegetables to flowers and trees, and among them, and cactus.

Is difficult to definitely say what the ship sailed to us this wonderful creation of flora. But one can say with certainty: the first hidalgo, take care of its imports to Europe, did it in one single motion: cactus like him. Definitely, without a long research it was clear that this is not a plant at which he could become rich. Spanish conquerors led primarily the desire for wealth. Blinded by passion that they will not hesitate to cut down whole tribes of Indians. But blood is not for the cactus lilas not spilled no tears.

When the conqueror carefully dig out of the land of cactus, to bring home, he certainly knew that its edible fruit, and some species and very tasty. Perhaps he was aware that some of the cacti can make intoxicating drinks. But, despite these reports, the Spaniards cacti are not very involved. Although some species were undoubtedly useful, Spaniards, it was not enough. The point is that different fruits can not be kept a long time, much less carry on a long distance. In addition, the Spaniards were very superstitious, which only reinforces their distrust of these plants. After the samples of some species of prickly pear their urine became red as blood, they were horrified, they seemed to have burst blood vessels. These drinks can be very valuable, though not for those who knew the taste of alcohol and wine.

The fate of cacti, the first time in Europe, we know nothing for sure. The life they were probably short because the first, fans of cacti was not yet learned to care for them. We do not know what species they were, but, except for Cereus and Opuntia, it could be, above all, seaside plants, primarily Melocactus. These events belong to the «prehistoric» era breeding cacti. The first known mention of the cactus is related to 1535 and belongs to one of the authors of American history - Fernandez de Oviedo-and-Valadez.

Several conventional cacti, especially some of the unpretentious prickly pear, in a short time, spread to the Iberian Peninsula and has gradually gained a «right of residence» in the Mediterranean. You do not need it any more, just stuck some of the joint plant in clay soil in several places, but very worried about the rest of nature. For edible fruit and other more or less useful properties at the beginning of the spread of cacti and the man has made, but the main role in that belonged to the birds, animals and wind. Small seeds were distributed in the same way as the seeds of strawberries or raspberries. Where they were once entrenched, there remain very good. Since cacti are very stable, at some places of southern Europe, especially Spain, Portugal, Sicily and Greece, they have spread so much that had become a scourge and a risk to agriculture, because it takes not only free, unnecessary space, but pastures, and land suitable for processing. They quickly feel «at home», and now give them a unique character.

Other cacti, forming now a substantial part of the collection, moving much slower. And distribution, is still ongoing, it was quiet and modest, as the plants themselves. Dissemination of useful plants Americas all over the world - from tomatoes to the corn - it was a matter of civilization. This required the interests of humanity. Where these plants get, the famine has become unfamiliar concept. That is, their value was much broader than merely enriching the assortment of dishes very popular. The significance of their invaluable.

One type of cactus, Nopalea cochenillifera, grow until the end of the last century in America, especially Mexico, but also on other continents, the vast plantations cactaceous for red (carmine) of tli, which is conducted at this plant. This is an expensive raw material exported mainly to Europe until the opening of aniline dyes. In addition to this exception is difficult to argue that cacti were a necessity for civilization.

Do cacti have little in common with the human stomach, and their impact on its prosperity and civilization slightly, just as in maize there is nothing to do with feelings and she has no direct effect on cultural life. Penetration of cacti in the environment of people in the life of man is due to have pre-formed life and culture.

Reason called dark Middle Ages. It was a time of superstition, hypocrisy and ignorance. The cultural level of the masses was low, and worse was only to their needs. Prerequisites for the occurrence and conditions for their studies «hobby» originally existed only in the circles of the aristocracy, or educated people. However, a higher standard of living does not necessarily mean of course, and a higher moral and emotional level. Aristocracy, but was able to find opportunities to use his position and achievements of civilization and culture for their own benefit. But before, and selfless philanthropists and lovers of art and literature enthusiasts, which provide a timber nursery and patronized the arts, likes collecting, and some, finally - and the new «hobby»: breeding wonderful exotic plants - cacti.

Roots of collecting hobbies go, however, in ancient times. It evolved from the human craving for the possession and accumulation of beautiful and valuable items. Repertoire collected items was determined, above all, the physical facilities collector, its cultural level, and partly fashion. Collection of arms, horses, wives and slaves or jewelry ancient ruler and the monarchs of great value. Owners of these ancient «collections», of course, is not always guided by noble motives. But despite that, we can not deny these properties and the first «collectors», which actually formed the basis for the popular «hobby» far. Proof of this is, for example, opening in Mesopotamia thousands of libraries - vast collections painted Cherepkov, ie the fruit of the former literature. Here, too, precisely, the main motive is not greed of the king, which are preserved rare monuments, but above all educated bibliophile and collector passion.

Thus, it is clear that the collection of cacti from the beginning of modern history until the recent past has been the privilege of the higher classes, mainly the aristocracy or the individual representatives of the educated bourgeoisie. A passion for cactus can only become massive, when conditions will be created for this purpose and in the wider population. Today, it is gradually implemented throughout the world, and we are pleased to note that we do. However, creation of prerequisites for the development of hobbies, which is - among many other - and the cultivation of cacti, on the modern stage of development is far from finished.


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