By: Terry Tickhill Terrell
British and American chintzes from circa 1775 to circa 1850 illustrated a fascination with nature and science that pervaded all levels of society. Textiles adorned with realistic plant motifs, always popular, became the height of fashion. Textile designers turned to botanical illustrations for inspiration and to provide greater scientific veracity. Floral motifs on chintzes ranged from old garden favorites to exotic new species pouring in from around the globe. Among these motifs, the Rattail Cactus or Creeping Cereus (Disocactus flagelliformis, Subfamily Cactoideae, Family Cactaceae) showed an unexpected popularity, enduring in different forms embodying fashionable changes over a period of about sixty-five years. This research identifies forty-five examples of eight different Disocactus motifs illustrated on chintz or pat- terns for chintz during that period. Though this study examined approximately equal numbers of items from British and American collections, most of the examples found were from American collections. This research narrows the date range, in comparison with published ranges, for likely dates of first printing for textiles with five of the Disocactus motifs. These substantially narrowed dates will provide a basis for more accurate dating of quilts and other items containing the study motifs.