|The dappled specks on the flattened stems are the effects of some rain we had earlier in the week.|
It is early December and the two Schlumbergera plants we have growing in pots are coming into flower. Their delicate pale pink flowers provide welcome winter colour in the garden when much of the other vegetation is entering into a state of dormancy with the onset of winter. Here is a good article which explains the winter dormancy of plants: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dormancy
We tend to associate flowering plants with early spring and summer time however, as we can see with the Schlumbergera some plants flower in the late-autumn and early winter. This plant is also know by the common names of Christmas or Thanksgiving Cactus which give another indication of when they flower. Having said that, in Brazil where this plant is native, its common name is Flor de Maio in other words May flower "reflecting the period in which they flower in the Southern Hemisphere".
Schlumbergera is a small genus of cacti with six species found in the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil. Plants grow on trees or rocks in habitats which are generally shady with high humidity and can be quite different in appearance from their desert-dwelling cousins. In the wild in its native habitat, Schlumbergera is said to be found in rocky, mountainous regions and also growing on trees however, this plant has also adapted to growing in pots both indoors as houseplants and outdoors as garden plants. Here in Tunisia, these specimens in the above photographs grow outdoors as the winters here are mild and although wet and cold are frost-free. In my experience, these appear to be hardy plants and can tolerate hot summer temperatures as well as mild and wet winters.
The modern genus Schlumbergera was created by Charles Lemaire in 1858. The name commemorates Frédéric Schlumberger, who had a collection of cacti at his chateau near Rouen.