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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mammillaria albiflora

Mammillaria albiflora has been known to collectors for over 70 years, but is still a thought-after plant. It comes from Mexican state of Guanajuato, from altitude over 2000 m. That in tropical climate usualy means milder (read 'cooler') climate with possibly more precipitation than in the valleys. 
Mammillaria albiflora is a very small plant in the wild, and still small in collections. It is also slow from seed. The plant in my picture is grafted on Trichocereus hybrid stock. This way it grows much larger and much quicker. Also the blooms are very plentiful, with the plant fully hidden by the flowers at the pick.
The only difficulty Mammillaria albiflora presents in culture is it's relative slowness from seed. The flowering size plant, that is of a size of a small cherry, can be achieved sometimes in 3 but usually in 5 or more years. This plant also has a large thick taproot. That means it needs deep pots and preferably pure mineral and loose potting material. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Opuntia engelmannii

Here is another picture from Stanford Arizona garden. There are variety of Opuntias growing there, most of they happy and large. The volunteer garden maintainers have yo trim them back time by time, to keep the pathways open.
This plant is probably Opuntia engelmannii, a common plant of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona deserts. It has wide open yellow flowers and pretty fruit, perfectly eatable once you clear of glochids, but full of large seeds. In the Opuntia native land ripe fruit do not stay on the plant for long, cleared up quickly by the desert inhabitants. Down in Stanford lands ground squirrels do not venture close to the spiny plants.
Nice contrast of the vine-red fruit and pale bluish pads is what prompted me to take this image, showing the 'cactus fall colors'. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum

This picture is taken at Stanford university park, in Arizona Cactus Garden. Arizona garden is a little park in the park, about an acre in size, with a set of nice cactus and succulent plants growing in the ground. The garden was established in late 1800-s and for recent couple of decades was in neglect. With work started about 15 years back a group of cactus enthusiasts from Stanford university staff restored the garden to it's current state, keeping the original plan, but re-establishing most of the plants currently in there, with privately donated plants.
Conditions there are close to what cactus would encounter if left unattended. There is no winter cover provided, and only occasional summer watering. This way Arizona garden has a good sampling of plants that can be grown outside here in SF Bay Area with very minimal care.
It is also a good place to visit any season. Winter or summer, there is always something blooming there. And it is a place to be around plants that are bigger than anything people usually have in their possession, with all that sacred magic large plants have.
In this picture I was trying to get a proper impression of dagger-like spines of Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum, a Baja California plant that grows there. It is still a young plant of about 6ft tall and it does not yet look the way full grown plants of that species would. Here it does not get that Baja summer-oven heat, and it is exposed to eventual winter night frost that probably does not happen in Baja. But the plant is well and healthy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Leuchtenbergia principis

Leuchtenbergia principis is an odd looking cactus, with long triangular in cross-section tubercles and even longer spines resembling dry grass. It is closely related to Ferocactus and known to form hybrids with different Ferocactus species in cultivation. The plant occurs over the large territory in Mexico.
For a long time Leuchtenbergia was the thought after plant among collectors, and was considered rare and difficult. Now days it is common, and also easy in cultivation. Sometimes it can be found even on garden center cactus shelves. It is an easy and rewarding bloomer after reaching the proper size. Areoles are located at the tubercle tip, and that is where the flower forms, on new young growth. The flowers come from inside of the plant rosette, as the flower-bearing tubercles have not reached the full grown size yet.
After just couple of years older tubercles tend to turn reddish and dry out from the tip, giving the sort of worn appearance to the plant. Larger old plants hard to call pretty, but they do look hansom.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Echinocereus scopulorum

Echinocereus scopulorum is yet another Echinocereus with brilliant flowers and easy in pot culture. This species comes from Sonora state. It has stems that are somewhat similar to Echinocerei from reichenbachii - pectinatus group, but easy to recognize by pink young spines. Flowers are about 3-4 inches across pink-white as in the picture. To flower plants need to reach about 4-5 inches in size.
Echinocereus scopulorum is easy in culture and similar to other 'traditional' Echinocerei in its requirements. Plenty of sun and warmth in the summer and dry cool winters are perfectly suitable for the plants.
The plant pictured is about 4 years old from seed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Echinocereus mojavensis

Echinocereus mojavensis is another common plant of US South-West. As the name implies it is native to Mojave desert, but actually is more a plant of transitional zones. In Mojave desert it is mostly found at or by the rocks or on the hill slopes, and the areal spreads further North and East, to Big Basin desert areas in Nevada and Utah and Colorado desert areas in Arizona.
This picture is taken not far from Colorado river canyon on Kaibab plateau. It is an open juniper and pine forest covering the rigged area with open limestone rock outcrops.
Echinocereus mojavensis is another plant easily adaptable to pot culture. It usually takes more than 5 years to reach the flowering size when grown from seed, and after that it blooms reliably every spring. Plants are cold and wet hardy and actually respond well to watering started as early as February, simulating Mojave desert winter precipitation.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Opuntia polyacantha

Opuntia polyacantha is a variable species that occurs on a large territory, from California to Rocky mountains in Colorado and Wyoming. It is a species of frost hardy plants and it's presents usually indicates that at least some winter frost happens in the area. in California  this species was reported as high as almost 14000 ft./4000m in White Mountains.
Plants from different places display different spines, often white but also brown like in the picture, and also straight, curled, or hair-like. Flowers can be yellow, like in all the plants I've seen East of Las Vegas, or pink.
This picture is taken near town of Page in Arizona. This is the land of red Navajo sandstone, that forms the background of the picture.
In culture this plant presents no problem, and due to it's cold hardiness it is recommended for outdoor cactus garden in the areas with snowy winters. If grown in the pots they require large containers, to accommodate the plant size. There are also relatively small forms of that species.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cylindropuntia ganderi

Cylindropuntia ganderi is a common plant in Anza Borego California state park, and also found down South in adjacent Baja California. It forms low spiny bushes, usually not too dense so you can safely walk around them. The more close encounter may turn unpleasant.
All that hostility does not stop Cylindropuntias from producing pretty flowers, large and gentle.
There is always some excitement going on in the microcosm of cactus flower. Cactus deserts are harsh for all the leaving things, and cactus flowers are providing of food and drink for the small creatures who's well been is dependent on them. This little beetle is feasting on Cylindropuntia pollen, and in return providing the service of transporting same pollen from plant to plant and ensuring the future cactus seed production.
Most of Cylindropuntias are not for the sane collectors (if you assume for a minute that such thing as a sane cactus collector may exist), mainly due to the large plant size, but also as a remarkably hard to handle plants. Even if cactus aficionado likely will declare the spines beautiful, they are also extremely painful if they come in contact with bare skin. The microscopic stricture of barbed wire or better harpoon-like splinters makes this spines very painful to get in, and even more painful to get out.
The picture below is perfectly safe though.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mammillaria zeilmanniana f. cristata

Mammirraiia zailmanniana is an easy and common plant, cultivated for it's nice and easily produced dark-pink flowers. It is a pretty much a 'beginer's cactus'. 
The plant pictured is about 10 years old from seed, and for the last 2-3 years it develops this growth abnormality called 'cristate'. The grow point of the main stem turned into grow line, that keeps getting longer and longer with time. This does not stop Mammillaria zailmanniana from blooming, and now instead of rings of flowers this plant has twin ribbon of flowers.
This 'cristate' growing is relatively uncommon but due to the special interest by the fascinated cactus lovers many forms like that are propagated in collections. In most cases cristate plants are grown on graft. This plant I have obviously does not require that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Airampoa (Tunilla) sp.

Aurampoa is a genus of small Opuntias, low creeping plants with small pads and nice flowers. The genus was described in 1929 by Czech naturalist and cactus specialist Albert Fric. The description was published in a catalog, as Fric was on bad terms with the 'cactus establishment' of the time and had no access to magazine publishing, and was very brief. Despite that the name become commonly used by both cactus enthusiast and specialists. In 1990-s British botanist Dave Hunt along with J.Iliff decided again to disrespect Fric's work and introduced the name Tunilla for the same group of plants, using the name employed by local people of Argentina for that small Opuntias kind, and my guess be the name means literaly just that  - 'small Opuntia (tuna) kind'.
The specific names withing that genus is a bit hard to match to the plants. Descriptions from different authors do not match, and illustrations accompanying the descriptions are not that common, as the genus was somewhat neglected for a long time. Determining the generic affiliation is not difficult as the flowers are notably distinct among other Opuntoides, but the rest is somewhat hazy.
Airampoas are easy in culture. Most species need to reach relatively large size before flowering, and depend on late winter - early spring watering. Plants usually propagated by cuttings. Flowers last for two days as with most other Opunias, closing for the night.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lobivia haematantha v rebutoides WR585a

Lobivia haematantha is a very variable species, known for its colorful blooms. The great variability requires a cactus collector to rely, on top of varietal name, on field number, to have better understanding on what plant is referred by that combination.
WR585a refers to old Walter Rausch's discovery. This plant is much different from other v. rebutoides crowd by it's smooth white appearance. Large flowers of about 4 inches have colors of shades of yellow to almost white. With age plants tend to become tall and often refuse to branch.
Growing this plant from seed may become of some challenge. Seedlings very early develop a thick carrot-root, and tend to dislike over-watering. Yong plants are also somewhat on a slow side compare to other Lobivias .

Escobaria alversonii

Escobaria alversonii is in my opinion the most beautiful of all Escobarias. It is slow but becomes large given enough time. Dense while spines with dark tips are very decorative. Flowers are light-pink and come up in June in the wild.
The picture is taken in Joshua Tree NP. E. alversonii is a common plant there, if looking at right location. It occurs on the slops or near the rock outcrops.
In the culture Escobaria alversonii is somewhat difficult plant. As many Mojave desert cacti and only one another Escobaria it is not much tolerant to summer watering, and a bit slow from seed. Flowering specimens a rarely seen in collections.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mammillaria dioica

Here is the other California Mammillaria - dioica. To be precise M. grahamii is also known to grow in the state, at the small area where also Saguaros grow, at the only spot west of Colorado river.
Southern California is actually the northern tip of M. dioica distribution, the plant common in Baja California desert. This picture is taken at Cactus trail in Anza Borego State Park. Cactus trail is a wonderful place to visit for every cactus aficionado. Cactus plants there grow in abundance, several species of chollas, Opunitas, Mammillaria, Echinocereus and Echinocactus species. The best time to visit is mid to end of April, depending on a year.
Mammillaria dioica is another easy to grow plant, not very common in collections. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mammillaria tetrancistra

Mammillaria tetrancistra is one of only two Mammillaria growing in California. This is a Mohave desert plant with large areal. It also occurs in Arizona, Nevada and probably Utah. In California it is known to grow on the hilltops near Death Valley, the most hostile North American desert. Of cause the hill tops are cooler in the summer and they also getting a bit more of winter moisture, but it is also colder in the winter up there.
Mammillaria tetrancistra looks pretty much like any other Mammillaria with hooked centrals, with larger pink flowers. It is neat and desirable plant, but rarely seen in cultivation. It is also considered the most difficult Mammillaria to grow. The plant is adapted to Mojave desert rain pattern with no precipitation during the hot summer months. That makes cultural requirements same as for most of the Sclerocactus species, to no surprise - the are from same general area and climate. Plants are moderately frost hardy an are fine with winter watering, provided the grow media is proper.
The picture is taken in Joshua Tree National Park, in California, at the last week of April. I was looking for the plants at the small area, may me 100ft by 15 ft, and I knew that there are at least a dozen plants there. It still took me about half an hour to find the first plant, and if not for the red fruit I'd have no doubt missed them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Echinocactus horizonthalonius

This is the smallest of Echinocacti, also very slow growing. The plant in the picture is probably decades old ans less than 4 inches tall.
Echinocactus horizonthalonius is known from South New Mexico and Texas, and adjacent Mexico, as well from separate location in Southern Arizona.
In culture Echinocactus horizonthalonius does not present problems, at least here in California. If watered periodically - once a month or so - it produces it's nice flowers, reliably in response to every summer watering.
Growing Echinocactus horizonthaloniusfom seed is an ambitious project. One definitely needs to start young. This and another plant I have are no doubt of wild origin, rescued from new mine project as I was told.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis is a genus of common and easy in culture plants. For about 100 years, and probably more, cactus growers are creating hybrids within this genus, selecting plants for flower size and color. There are hundreds of registered hybrids, and many more unnamed ones.
This plant I have grown from seed that I received by crossing a plant with large bright-red flowers of Trichocereus type, and a plant with typical Echinopsis flowers with long tube, but pure yellow in color and somewhat small. Both parents are of garden center origin and bare no 'official' status.
The result is what you see in the picture - reach orange colored flowers, relatively large in size.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Echinocereus rayonesensis

Echinocereus rayonesensis is another Mexican Echinocereus from Nuevo Leon state, valley of Rayones.
It is an interesting plant, it's stems are densely covered with white needle-like spines. Plant forms clumps, branching by underground stolons.
Nice pink flowers come in spring, and easily produced once the flowering size is reached. The plant has to be larger than most Echinocerei to bloom. Usually first flowers are seen on well developed plant with 3-4 stems.
Because of it's habit of forming underground stolons this plant better kept in larger and shallow pots. The plant pictured is growing in broad 21sm/ 8  inches in diameter clay planter.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Maihuenia poeppigii

Maihuenia poeppigii is an unusual cactus, forming  separate subfamily along with just one another species. Both plants are native to the southern parts of South America. They are among a few cactus species that rely mostly or exclusively on green lives for photosynthesis. 
Maihuenia poeppigii forms beautiful green spreading maths in the wild. The plants are very frost hardy and can survive winter under snow. 
Growing Maihuenias from seed is not difficult, but they must be treated completely differently than other cactus seedlings. First, trying to grow them in high humidity kills seedlings reliably and quickly. Second, partial shade results in thin, long and weak plants. Full sun from the moment of germination is what Maihuenias need. They also appreciate good feed and watering, provided they are grown in  well drained pure mineral substrate. They much more accustomed to cold then to heat, but grow quickly only when it is warm. Seedlings that have reached four weeks of age are usually very robust. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Selenicereus testudo

Selenicereus testudo is a good plant for hanging basket. It grows quickly, reaching the flowering size in 3-4 years from seed. The plant need to have stems of about 2-3ft/0.6-1m long to be ready to flower. It is hard to call Selenicerei pretty plants, but they special flowers making up for it.
The flowers of Selenicereus testudo are of 'true' Selenicereus shape, though smaller than infamous blooms S. pterantus or S. grandiflorus. The main central 'cup' of the flower is less than 4 inches/10sm across.Also they are much easier produced, and usually in large numbers. Flowers open couple hours after sunset, in full darkness, and stay open for 2-3 hours in the morning, still allowing to photograph them in natural light.
Selenicerei are generally easy in culture, and often used as a grafting stick for other more'difficult' plants. The only special requirement for these tropical plants is to keep the winter temperatures high, never below 10C/50F, and better not below 15C/60F. Plants will not die if temperature stays above freezing, but they suffer from fungal infections if kept too cold. Also they should not be exposed to direct sunlight for extended part of the day, and will grow gust fine at bright location with no direct sun at all.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mammillaria perezdelarosae

Mammillaria perezdelarosae is one of the prettiest members of Mammillaria genus. It is very small plant in the wild, grows much larger in culture. Plants are tightly wrapped in white spines, with dense flock filling the space between tubercles, and neat rows of contrasty dark and hooked central spines.
Plants are relatively easy in cultivation, a bit slow from seed - but that is expected for small plants. The flowering season is winter, but early summer blooms are also often seen on larger plants.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Echinocereus coccineus

Echinocereus coccineus -'red claret cup' - is a common plant of US southwest. It is one of the larger Echinocerei, often forming clumps of up to 3ft/1m across, with hundreds of stems packed together. Most of the forms are tertaploid, and also doious, e.i. bi-sexual plants. The pictured is a male flower, and it's stylus even if looks fine is dysfunctional, but pollen is produced  and abundant. Female plans have no noticeable amount of pollen produced. Sometimes male flowers do make fruit with small number of seeds in them, showing that sexual divide is not always reliable in that species
This species was described by George Engelmann and is known for over 150 years. The specific name means 'red' and refers to the flower color. 
In New Mexico and Texas there are areas where Echinocereus coccineus forms hybrids with Echinocereus dasyacanthus. Those plants have great flower color variation from pure white to orange, lavender, pink, salmon and anything in between. 
This particular form comes from Zion NP area in southern Utah.  This are generally spiny plants with darker straight centrals. 
These plants are fairly easy in culture. They need lots of sunlight. To see flowers you need to start watering in late winter - early spring. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mammillaria schiedeana ssp giselae

Mammillaria schiedeana ssp giselae comes from Mexican state Tamaulipas. It is a small plant in the wild, but makes large clumps in culture. The plant was first discovered about 15 years ago, and quickly become popular among collectors. 
This Mammillaria is easy in culture, makes neat looking clumps of small rounded heads, and in summer months gets covered with it's small but plentiful pink flowers.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Echinomastus johnsonii

Echinomastus johnsonii is another Mojave desert plant. It comes from the area where some end of summer monsoons from the Gulf of Mexico are reaching, but summers are generally dry and hot. Plants have one distinct growth period and it is in the spring.
This picture is taken at Beaver Dam mountains, where Arizona, Nevada and Utah borders meet. The plants here have varied color spines, from very light colored yellowish to dark brown. Flowers are pink like in the picture. The plant grow in what appears to be pure sand, and that soil pH testes slightly alkaline at 8.5-9.
In 'traditional' culture plants are considered hard to impossible, but grow and bloom gust fine when planted in pure mineral substrate and watered in winter and spring, but never in the summer.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Echinocereus papillosus

Yet another plant from the remarkable Echinocereus clan, from South Texas and adjacent Mexico. This is spreading plant with finger thick stems. There are several forms in cultivation, the one in the picture has yellow spines, others are with brown-red central spines.
Flowers really make this species to stand out even in it's flower-reach genus Echinocereus. They are plate-like, about 4 inch across and feel huge.
In well-known Taylor's book on the genus he states that plants are hesitant to flower and speculates about required warmer winters to initiate blooms. In my experience plants are blooming readily, all 3 forms that I have, and in my greenhouse winter temperatures go down to 5C on colder nights. That tells me that the only requirement these plants have to support flowering is plenty of sunlight.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sclerocactus polyancistrus

Sclerocactus polyancistrus is a plant of California and Nevada, growing in Mojave desert. Plants are not really rare as the territory where they occur is huge. But it is uncommon species and despite their size plants usually hard to find when not in bloom. 
It is a very desirable plant for any collector, with beautiful bi-colored tight spines, grass-blade shaped white ones and dark-red long wire-like hooks (ancistrus = hook), and showy flowers that stay open for up to a week, but considered difficult to grow unless grafted.
The key to successful growing S. polyancistrus plant a "natural" way, e.i. on it's own roots, is a pure mineral growing substrate and, more importantly, matching the rain pattern of Mojave deserts with the watering regiment.  That usually means no water from May to August, or plants will easily rot, and good watering in late winter and early spring. In Mojave desert it does rain in the winter of not too often, and low temperatures with night frost preserve moisture in the soil, which stays this way wet for several months straight. Once spring days get warmer, desert plants actively grow, consuming water that was accumulated in the soil. Later, once temperatures rise more, desert soils dry out.  By the cactus bloom time, May usually, no rainfall had occurred in Mojave desert for a  month. Also some occasional rain in August and September is possible in unusually wet years.
When the growth requirements are well understood and properly followed, Sclerocactus polyancistrus is actually a very robust plant, growing relatively quickly and blooming reliably. As you would expect from the plant that calls home such a harsh place.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tephrocactus weberii

Thephrocactus weberii is one of the smaller South American opuntoides that are getting more in fashion with the collectors in recent years. It is very easy to grow plant densely covered with brown, white or yellow spines.
Flowers in culture are not so common treat, mainly due to the larger plant size that is required for successful blooming. What makes it even more difficult is the annoying manner of the plants long and barbed spines to hook on everything, making you accidentally break off the stem segments that are not that tightly attached to each other. Each segment is ready to take root, making this behavior a great propagation strategy in the wild, but not so pleasant in the pot culture.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mammilaria spinosissima 'crassior'

This is a yellow-spinned form of common M. spinosissima, a nice overall plant getting ready to open it's first blooms of the season.
It is nice and easy plant, best grown on full sun to get that dense spines. Larger plants are very prolific with flowers. It comes from Mexico as most of Mammillarias do, Morelos state

Monday, July 4, 2011

Acanthocalycium thionanthum v glaucium

Acanthocalycium thionanthum is a common in cultivation and easy to grow South American plant. It has small bluish body (hence the 'glaucium' name) and bright flowers in yellow-orange range. This particular plant I have is a form 'coloreum' known for this nice flowers. Plants are relatively slow growing, staying compact in cultivation.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Opuntia compressa - thigmotropism

Here is a sequence that was shot several seconds one from another. Thigmotropism is a term for plant parts moving in reaction to touch. Here I'm touching Opuntia filaments as a pollinating insect would do. Filaments start moving towards the flower stile in an attempt to put pollinator - insect in this case - in contact with flower's  stigma, to capture pollen from other flower that this insect hopefully brought, and at the same time holding the insect tight, making sure it gets pollen from that flower on itself and transport it to the next flower it visits.
Many Opuntias and other Cacti as well show the same filaments motion on touch.
Opuntia compressa is a common plant of the US East coast, spreading from Florida to Massachusetts. It is cold hardy and can easily overwinter under snow.No matter how wet the soil is the plants will partially  dehydrate in late fall, preparing to frosts, and will not plum up again until the warmth of the spring.     

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mammillaria carmenae

Mammillaria carmenae is one of the beautiful Mammillarias, plants covered with bright yellow, white or rusty bristle-like spines that hide the stem completely if grown on full light. Flowers are white or yellowish, like on the picture. Pink flowers point ti hybrid origin, with closely related M.laui.
In the wild M. carmenae is a tiny plant, but in culture they grow large, forming pretty clumps. They present no difficulties to the grower. The plant pictured is about 10 years old from seed.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Matucna aureiflora

Like all other Matucanas, M.aureiflora is a Peruvian species. It has depressed-globular stem, and blooms with bright-yellow, hence the name, and unusual for Matucanas round-symmetrical flower with short flower tube. Buds on the picture actually bear more color than flowers that will open couple days later.
This particular form has thicker yellow-colored spines, different from plants that are common in cultivation. 
All Matucanas give no trouble when grown in pots. One may wish them been a faster from seed, but they are sure not the slowest plants around. In cultivation Matucana aureiflora riches blooming size of about 3 inches in 4-5 years.

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