On February 15, 2019, in Mesa, Arizona, and across the country, the U.S. Postal Service issued 10 new Cactus Flowers stamps (Forever priced at the new 55-cent First-Class Mail rate) in pressure-sensitive self-adhesive booklets of 20 stamps (Item 680000).
The first-day dedication took place at 11 a.m. PST, and USPS Chief Customer and Marketing Officer Jacqueline Krage Strako was the dedicating official. The venue was Building C at the Mesa Convention Center hosting AmeriStamp Expo, located at 263 N. Center Street, Mesa, Arizona.
As USPS put it, “Cacti are flowering perennial succulents in the plant family Cactaceae. Though experts debate exact numbers, more than 1,500 species are known. Almost all cacti are native to the Americas, ranging from British Columbia and Alberta in Canada to the southern regions of Argentina and Chile. The southwestern U.S. and Mexico are home to the greatest variety and abundance of cacti.”
These stamps celebrate the beauty of the cactus flower; each featuring a photograph of one of 10 different species—but there is a surprise. Although most cactus flowers that grow in the United States also grow in Mexico, half the new stamps picture Cactus Flowers that do not naturally or legally grow in the United States at all.
Cactus Flower species native to the United States (and their popular names) are as follows:
Opuntia engelmannii Popular names include: cow’s tongue cactus, cow tongue prickly pear, desert prickly pear, discus prickly pear, Engelmann’s prickly pear and Texas prickly pear; and also nopal, abrojo, joconostle and vela de coyote in Mexico.
Echinocereus dasyacanthus Despite its commonly yellow flowers, it is commonly known as Texas rainbow cactus because of the subtle rings or bands of contrasting colors along the stem of some of the plants. Another common name is spiny hedgehog cactus.
Echinocereus poselgeri Popular names in southern Texas include dahlia cactus, dahlia hedgehog cactus, dahlia apple cactus, lead pencil cactus, pencil hedgehog cactus and pencil cactus, and it is known in the northeastern Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas as the sacasil or zocoxochitl.
Echinocereus coccineus Scarlet hedgehog cactus or claret cup cactus are its popular names in the United States, and this cactus is abundant within a localized range in southern New Mexico, southwestern Texas and northern Chihuahua and Coahuila.
Echinocactus horizonthalonius Common names in the United States include devilshead, turk’s head cactus, blue barrel cactus, silverbell cactus, eagle’s claw, horse maimer, horse crippler and, in Spanish, bisnaga, bisnaga meloncillo, bisnaga de dulce or biznaga-tonelmancamula.
Cactus Flower species not native to the United States are:
Rebutia minuscula This beautiful cactus lives exclusively in northern Argentina at altitudes above 1,000 meters.
Pelecyphora aselliformis This cactus is restricted to a very small but stable range just north of the city of San Luis Potosi in central Mexico.
Parodia microsperma Found in the shrub lands and savannah of northwestern Andean Argentina, with small patches in and just north of the Bolivian frontier.
Thelocactus heterochromus Native to Durango and Coahuila in northeastern Mexico.
Parodia scopa A species of flowering plant in the cactus family Cactaceae, native to the uplands of southern Brazil and Uruguay.
Within the booklet, each stamp design is featured twice, but none identify the subject of the stamp. With new DNA studies, botanists sometimes reclassify plants, but at the time of the printing of these stamps, the scientific names shown were accurate.
Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamps with existing photographs taken by John P. Schaefer, President Emeritus of the University of Arizona. Now retired from a 21-year career in teaching and research, Schaefer remains active as a nature photographer, conservationist and avid birdwatcher, and helped organize the Tucson Audubon Society and founded the Nature Conservancy in Arizona. His photographs are featured on the Internet as “The Desert Illuminated: Cactus Flowers in Full Bloom” at http://johnpschaefer.com, which in fact shows the same image of Rebutia minuscula as the one that appears on a new Cactus Flower stamp.
According to the USPS, “Cacti are among America’s most popular houseplants. Most cacti grow very slowly, and are tough, adaptable and low maintenance. Several botanic gardens in the U.S. showcase the wide variety and stunning beauty of these plants.
“When cacti bloom, visitors experience a vivid floral display. Cactus flowers generally occur singly, although many separate blossoms might appear on a plant at the same time. Most cactus flowers are large and flamboyant, with colors of white, red, pink, orange, or yellow. Some flowers are also richly scented, and the nectar and colors attract pollinators such as bats, bees and birds.”
Cacti have made several rather dramatic appearances on U.S. postage in the past, first in a quartet of se-tenant 20-cent Desert Plants issued in 1981, Scott 1942–45, two of which were blooming. In 1989, the Postal Service issued a 14-cent America the Beautiful postal card, Scott UX127, picturing a red-tailed hawk soaring at sunset above a Sonora Desert festooned with cacti, also featured on the first-day cancel for the card.
Issued 38 years ago, this se-tenant block of four 20¢ Desert Plants stamps, Scott 1942-45, included two cacti that were blooming.
Then in 1999 came the Sonoran Desert pane in the Nature of America series, Scott 3293, with 10 33-cent stamps. The pane was teeming with life of every kind, including Cylindropuntia bigelovii, a cactus better known as teddy bear cholla, a prickly pear cactus and numerous examples of Carnegiea gigantean, the stately saguaro cactus.
First in the USPS Nature of America landscape series was this 1999 Sonoran Desert tableau, Scott 3293, with ten 33¢ stamps. Cacti shown included the teddy bear cholla at left (Opuntia bigelovii), desert prickly pear cactus at the center of the design (Opuntia phaeacantha), blossoming hedgehog cacti (Echinocereus engelmannii) just behind the diamondback rattlesnake and numerous stately saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantean).
Customers have 120 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office or at The Postal Store website at usps.com/shop. They must affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes (to themselves or others), and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:
FDOI — Cactus Flowers Stamps
USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services
8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64144-9900
After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. There is a 5-cent charge for each additional postmark over 50. All orders must be postmarked by June 15, 2019.