Chris Bowles has more in common with this cactus than a few spines on his chin – it was a present to celebrate his birth.
His aunt Pam Kasey, from Ferring, bought the cactus in 1956 for her sister Shirley after she gave birth to Chris.
And now, 61 years later, the cactus has found its way back into Pam’s possession – and she needs help with what to do with it.
Chris, from Cheam, Surrey, only recently discovered the plant’s history. The carpenter said: “It is a family heirloom! I can remember as a child growing up this cactus being at home, but I didn’t know it was as old as me.”
His 82-year-old aunt, who confessed she ‘couldn’t grow a lettuce’, said it ‘thrived on neglect’ as she only feeds it plant food once a month in the summer.
She said: “It has always been a bit of a mystery to me.
“It is obviously very good stock to have gone on for as long as this. When I bought it, I never thought that Chris would be standing here with it today.”
The 82-year-old was not married when she bought the plant from a nursery in Woodcote Road in Wallington, Surrey.
She did not think she would see it again – but Shirley handed it back to her 17 years ago as she did not have space for it.
In that time, it has grown 18 inches and flowered twice – once in 2001 and again in 2003 – when most cacti only blossom every 15 years.
The great-grandmother said the 36-hour bloom was a sight to behold: “It was a beautiful flower; there is no doubt about it.”
The cactus has seen three generations added to Pam’s family – and in the last few years, it has welcomed its own spiny spawn into the world. One offshoot is more than three years old, and the latest sprout is eight months.
According to cactus expert Suzanne Mace, it is either a Peruvian apple cactus or a Mandacaru, a variety common in northern Brazil.
The British Cactus and Succulent Society trustee said it was very unusual for a domestic cactus to survive this long, as usually owners get bored and replace them.
She also recommended repotting the cactus, which was last done in 2000.
Pam feared the cactus might be getting too much for her – but her nephew was determined to keep the spiny senior in the family, offering to take it home with him when she could not look after it anymore.