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Schlumbergera truncata, known as a False Christmas Cactus, is the parent plant of the Christmas Cactus. It can be told apart from its counterpart by the claw-like appendages it has on its flat stems. These give the plant its alternative common name 'Crab Cactus'.
Unlike other cacti, the False Christmas Cactus is actually a tropical plant native to the coastal mountains of Brazil. Their natural habitat has quite a small range - occurring on higher altitude trees and rocks in Rio de Janeiro.
This species was first described by the American botanist Reid Venable Moran in 1953.
Despite being called a cactus, the False Christmas Cactus won't do well in hot and dry conditions like other cacti. Instead, they're suited to the humid Brazilian rainforests and, as such, they have higher water and moisture needs than a typical cactus. They can do well when placed in bathrooms, as they'll enjoy the steam coming from your shower.
They'll do best in bright, indirect light. In the wild, they often grow under the canopies of taller trees meaning that the light that reaches them is somewhat filtered, so they're not as well-accustomed to harsh, direct sunlight.
Through the growing season, you should try to keep your False Christmas Cactus moist. You can allow the top layer of the soil to become dry between waterings - adding more water when it is still wet can lead to overwatering. On the other hand, soil that is too dry can cause your False Christmas Cactus to droop, and it may potentially also begin to drop its leaves and flowers.
After flowering: cut back on watering and place it somewhere light and a bit cooler (50 - 60 °F / 10 - 15 °C) to let it rest and gather strength.
The False Christmas Cactus can produce pretty flowers that range in color including shades of white, pink or purple.
There's a Brazilian legend regarding the original Christmas Cactus which has given it its charming reputation as a symbol of 'answered prayers'. The legend details that a young boy living in the jungle would pray to God to show him a sign that Christmas was coming, and he was said to have woken up the next day surrounded by the flowers of the Christmas Cactus. This, and the fact that these plants bloom in the winter, is what gives them their name.