Plant Coroner Pinpoints Cactus’ Time Of Death: “Sometime in 2010”

In the aftermath of the unexpected death of Lance, beloved cactus of Jim and Patti Henderson, Salem County Plant Coroner Dennis Martin announced that a preliminary autopsy revealed that the death was not suspicious, and that it likely occurred in 2010.

“Lance appears to have died of indeterminate, natural causes, and we estimate that the cessation of photosynthesis and vascular functions occurred in 2010, most likely during the winter months, when the plant would have entered into a period of stasis or dormancy. What often happens is that these older cacti simply never ‘wake up'”.

The stricken Lance was discovered with its primary stem toppled last Tuesday by Patti Henderson when she returned home from work. She immediately called 917, and paragardeners responded within minutes, irrigating and transporting the succulent to Salem Memorial Horticultural Center. Trauma botanists administered a variety of lifesaving treatments, including a radical re-potting, but ultimately were unable to revive it.

“It’s good to have closure”, Jim Henderson remarked in response to Martin’s finding. “When Pat called me, I immediately suspected the cat. But Dr. Martin says that there was no evidence of foul play, so at least we don’t have to ‘go down that road’. With everything that’s happened, that would be too much to deal with.”

Lance, 10, a member of genus Acanthocereus and species Horridus,  was purchased by Henderson at Cactus Barn East at Cresthaven Mall in 2003. It quickly became one of the most popular members of the Henderson family. Indeed, Lance was the only Henderson plant to be given a proper name. It earned the sobriquet after a series of inadvertent stabbings that family dog Trixie sustained after it was placed on the oak end table, where it remained to the end.

Lance in 2006

Lance in 2006

Lance was remembered as a quiet plant, but was a good companion, especially to Stan Pulsipher, Patti’s father, who moved in to the Henderson home in 2008 after suffering a major stroke.

“Dad always loved Lance”, she recalled. “After the stroke, he had so much trouble speaking, and he would get frustrated sometimes trying to carry on conversations. But with Lance, he could take his time. Lance was a good listener.”

A remembrance is scheduled for Saturday, with interment afterwards at the Circle of Life Memorial Compost Pile.


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