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Christmas cactus has seen and heard a lot of county business

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

If the Douglas County Clerk-Treasurer’s Christmas cactus could talk, 70 years of dirt could be spilled.

The cactus has shared offices with a district attorney, district judges, the recorder and the clerk-treasurer over the past 42 years and is thought to date to the mid-1920s.

“I wish it could talk. It would probably know a lot of stories,” says current Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Reed.

The plant occupies a large terra cotta pot next to a south-facing window on the ground floor of the Minden Inn in the clerk’s office. Each year around Thanksgiving, brilliant pink blossoms emerge, lasting until the following spring.

“A lot of people come in and say ‘Is that a Christmas cactus?’ They’re shocked,” said Reed. “We’ve had employees who have been here and taken snippings of it when they leave.”

Reed has deduced the origin of the cactus to Grover Krick, a district attorney who brought the cactus to his office in the historic courthouse on Eighth Street at some point during a tenure that lasted from 1922 to 1958. When he left, the cactus moved to the recorder’s office, also in the old courthouse.

Sometime in the 1960s, the cactus moved to the district judge’s chambers. At the time, the county was part of a circuit served by different judges. One of those judges was Richard Waters Jr., who served from 1961 until his death in 1973.

“Judge Waters used to smoke and cuss. The Christmas cactus just loved it over there,” said Reed.

After Waters passed away, the cactus moved to the clerk-treasurer’s, where it stayed for 20 years until the clerk’s division moved to the Minden Inn.

The plant has probably witnessed plenty of controversy, including that last move.

“There was a lot of debate and discussion about the Christmas cactus being moved,” said Reed. “Everything else could be divided fairly easily, except for the Christmas cactus. I don’t really know how the final decision was made.”

Somehow, the cactus made the move. Shortly after, the office workers pooled their money to buy the cactus a new pot. Reed said none of the local florists wanted to take on such a delicate job, so the cactus went to Reno to be repotted.

Since then, it has continued to thrive.

“We water it and give it plant food once a month, if we remember,” said Reed. “It has a lot of attention and a lot of love.”