On the outskirts of Marrakech in Morocco is a 17-acre cactus nursery surrounded by a fence with a handwritten sign that simply reads: ‘‘Cacti.’’
The humble sign is something of an understatement. The succulent farm it advertises, Cactus Thiemann, is the largest of its kind in all Africa, with more than 150 varieties of cacti, all displayed in tidy rows against the otherwise empty landscape of the Moroccan desert.
The farm was started by and named for Hans Thiemann, who was 38 years old when he came to Morocco from Bremen, Germany. The agricultural engineer came from a family who’d cultivated succulents for generations, but he was tired of growing them in greenhouse conditions. Thiemann had visited the north African country in the 1950s to get some plants from the Jardin Majorelle, and in the ‘60s he came back for good.
Among the succulents he brought with him was a tiny elephant cactus. It’s now stands 26-feet tall. Thiemann passed away in 2001, but his widow, Fatima, took over running the farm. She lives with their two daughters in a little pink house on the property. Cactus Thiemann gets more and more visitors every year, and plans to eventually open a cafe on the farm.
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