A codgerie of shaggy men

Among the stand-out cactuses at the Stanford cactus and succulent garden these days: the wonderfully named Cephalocereus senilis (very roughly, ‘old man candle-head’). One of a large set of stand-up, erect cactuses that pretty much inevitably count as phallic symbols — in this case, with the added attraction of lots of wispy white hair. A codgerie of shaggy men:

This is a gathering of old men, as in the tv movie. From Wikipedia:

A Gathering of Old Men is a 1987 American television drama film directed by Volker Schlöndorff and based on the novel of the same name.

A bigoted white farmer is shot in self-defense on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation. A group of old black men come forward en masse to take responsibility for the killing.

It’s also a minyan (there’s a tenth man off to the left of this shot). On the noun minyan from NOAD2:

a quorum of ten men (or in some synagogues, men and women) over the age of 13 required for traditional Jewish public worship

(One of the great things about shaggy cactuses is that you can’t determine their race, ethnicity, or religion.)

I prefer to refer to such a group with the portmanteau codgerie (codger + coterie). On the two parts (from NOAD2):

often derogatory an elderly man, especially one who is old-fashioned or eccentric

a small group of people with shared interests or tastes, especially one that is exclusive of other people

And then on the plant, from Wikipedia:

Cephalocereus senilis (old man cactus [or shaggy man cactus]) is a species of cactus native to Guanajuato and Hidalgo in eastern Mexico. It is threatened in the wild, but widespread propagation and popularity in cultivation have reduced the demand on wild populations.

Cephalocereus senilis is a tall, columnar species with clusters of stems that may grow to 5–15 m tall; the individual stems are usually unbranched, being unable to withstand the weight of side branches adequately. The most striking feature is the shaggy coat of long, white hairs suggestive of unkempt hair on an old man. The coat is a particularly striking silvery white on the young cactus; as the plant ages the stem begins to lose its covering. The flowers are red, yellow, or white, though the plant may not flower until 10–20 years old.

The hairs are modified spines and they make many a plant appear almost snow-white; they serve to protect the plant from frost and sun. However, the hairs are only the radial spines of the cactus; they conceal formidable sharp yellow central spines that belie the inoffensive appearance of the hairy covering.

Note: the old guys might look innocuous, but they’re formidably prickly.

One Response to “A codgerie of shaggy men”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Sim Aberson on Facebook:

    One of our favorite palms (we have one in the back yard) is cocothrinax crinata, old man palm. Ours isn’t so shaggy yet, but hopefully in a few years.


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