Mark Dimmitt – An Inspiration for Cactus Lovers

Photo Courtesy: theguardian.com

If you are planning to create a cactus garden, collecting information about various cactus species will obviously help you. But it’s also fun and inspiring to learn about some cactus experts who have made a great contribution to the topic of gardening.

Mark Dimmitt is one such great personality whose knowledge and expertise about cacti and other plants and enthusiasm about rare plant species is worth learning from. His journey will certainly motivate you and teach you how to carry out successful gardening.

Dimmitt grew an interest in growing and taking care of plants when in 1967, he found a mysterious plant in a research greenhouse. It was an Adenium, a plant native to Africa, not so well-known then. Naturally, Dimmitt couldn’t find much information of this plant. But he didn’t give up. He kept hunting succulent nurseries in southern California for an Adenium which he could call of his own. Finally he did find one, a neglected plant placed at the back of a shop. Dimmitt bought the plant and then started buying more as he realized that Adenium does well in the hot desert climate, as he had moved to Tucson then and had taken charge as the Curator of Botany at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Dimmitt didn’t stop there. He tried to cross the deepest pink Adenium plants in his collection and eventually succeeded in getting unusual red flowers of Adenium, while Adenium flowers are generally pink. The birth of this Red Everbloomer (the name given by Dimmitt to the red-flowered Adenium) inspired him to breed further for better reds. His first red hybrid Adenium, named Crimson Star, became famous world-wide, and plant lovers in Thailand started falling for it. By 2000, almost all nurseries in Asia had Crimson Star on sale.

After the success of finding, planting and crossing Adeniums, Dimmitt continued his hunt for unusual flowers, and succeeded in acquiring many rare plants including Corpse Flower (the largest flower in the world weighing around 40 lbs.). Among the rare and weird plants he collects and grows, succulents and epiphytes are in majority.

Today, Mark Dimmitt is living life with his greatest passion – growing cacti and other rare plants. He has his own 5-acre land in Tucson, Arizona with two full-size greenhouses, a patio and a yard, all filled with thousands of plants ranging from vibrant green cacti to a poisonous plant native to Socotra Island named Euphorbia abdelkuri to foods like blueberries, Brazilian jabuticaba and Swiss chard. He has developed more than 200 colorful cacti hybrids and named them like Hallucination and Apricot Glow. These include his torch cactus hybrids too which are with him from the 1960s.

Dimmitt is an M.S. from UCLA, a B.S. from Pomona College and a Ph.D. in herpetology from the University of California at Riverside. He worked from 1979 to 2011 with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, first as the Curator of Botany and later as the Director of Natural History after which he retired. But still he is active as a Fellow of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America.

Mark Dimmitt is the author of over 50 scientific publications about horticulture and ecology. Some of his major publications are the plant and ecology chapters of A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert, and Adenium: Sculptural Elegance, Floral Extravagance.

Dimmitt throws an annual solstice party in June, a big event which over 150 people attend who include even those who Dimmitt personally doesn’t know.

Don’t you think that every gardener and cactus lover should be as passionate as Mark Dimmitt?