Published Sunday, January 13, 2013

An Heirloom Plant? You Betcha


Diane McKinley of Tyrone is the proud owner of a Christmas cactus that she estimates is more than 100 years old.

It has been passed down through the family beginning with the Sams family in Canada. About 1900 they moved to Portland, N.Y., where McKinley’s Aunt Clara Maus married one of the children, Ken, about 1928.

When a big highway forced Aunt Diana and Uncle Ken to move in the 1960s, they gave it to Larry Shattuck, Diane’s brother. He had it for about 10 years and gave it to Diane in 1978.

The cactus was recently repotted by professionals and blooms at different times, sometimes Easter, Christmas or Thanksgiving.

The plant has moved from New York to Georgia to Mississippi, Pennsylvania, back to New York and back to Georgia over its lifetime.

“Nobody touches it but me,” said McKinley. I’m the only one who waters it.”

While dividing the plant “makes me nervous just to think about it,” McKinley has shared two slips with two children who are interested in plants.

The cactus is displayed on a stand that belonged to McKinley’s grandmother, who was born in 1894.

When the cactus is moved, it always goes in the car with McKinley.

“When my husband Bill and I go to the old folks home, it’s going with us,” she said. “I don’t think I have it in my will, but everybody in the family knows that my son has a green thumb and cherishes the cactus” as much as McKinley.

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