I’ve been checking on them since this morning, yet…the ants beat me to the flowers of my Yellow Torch Cactus (Parodia leninghausii). I was so excited to see its yellow flowers again for they only bloom once a year in my upper garden.
I guess the sparrows would agree with me if I say that Mammillaria decipiens ssp. camptotricha is not a comfortable plant to handle. This spiny green globular cactus is presently about 5 inches tall and 6 inches wide (it hasn’t achieved its maturity, yet). It also looks like a nest guarded with lots of needles. Hence, its common name Bird’s Nest Cactus, Bird’s Nest Mammillaria or Bird’s Nest Pincushion.
The green tubercles of this plant are about 2 cm long. Its axil is somewhat lightly covered with white hairs and a few bristles. The protruding needles in the photos are its radial spines which compensate for its lack of central spines. Each tubercle has 2 to 8 radial spines about 3 cm long. Those sharp-edge needles are either thin or thick; flexible or rigid; curled or straight; yellow, white, or brown in color.
In between those tubercles bloom the small white flowers about 1 cm to 1.5 cm wide. (I noticed that this cactus flower in dry and wet season.) Despite its plain appearance, those blossoms have a delicate scent which attracts some ants or stingless bees. In addition, its juicy fruits often look like eye-candy to humans and birds alike.
I like this succulent because it doesn’t demand a lot of care; it’s happy growing in a sandy-loam soil mixed with rice hulls. It also just require a full sun exposure and moderate water to thrive well. However during wet season, I have to move it to a dry spot to avoid drowning and rotting.
It’s the third time in 2011 that my favorite cactus flowered; it bloomed in February and in May earlier this year. I noticed that every time this particular Sea Urchin Cactus (Echinopsis subdenudata) blooms, it is always on a rainy day/night. It’s frustrating that it stays open for only 24 hours or so. Because of the wind and rain, I failed to see its flowers open in the evening. However, I could still admire its beauty and oh-so sweet perfume in its remaining blooming hours in the morning up to 12 noon. I guess the bees would agree with me…
For six years, Mammillaria zeilmanniana is the most active of my cacti when it comes to producing flowers. It shows off 2 cm wide pinkish-purple flowers all throughout the year even when I seldom tend to it. This cactus is also commonly known as the Rose Pincushion Cactus. Coincidentally, I bought it from Rose (a succulent-dealer) last June 2005.
The body of this cactus is glossy green and full of tubercles. You need to take a closer look because the spines cover the whole plant. The white ones are the radial spines, which are about 15 or more found on each tubercle. (Their main function is to collect moisture.) Then, there are also the four reddish-brown central spines on each tubercle — 3 straight and 1 hook. (These fend off little birds that covet its whitish-green fruits and humans.) I always watch out for the hooks when I tend to this cactus but I guess I just couldn’t avoid them.
I’ve heard that in its natural habitat, this cactus rarely branches out. However, it is not in the case here in my garden; from a single plant, it initially produced a cluster of offsets that became clumps later on. I say this plant is very generous that I need to re-pot it every two years.
The offsets thrive well in pots with good cactus soil (I just mix sand, loam soil and rice hulls). I put them in an open area where they get full sun exposure and lots of air. During the dry season, watering is only needed when the soil is hard to the touch. However during the wet season, I refrain to give it water for this plant is prone to rot. Overall, I like this cactus because of its purple flowers and that it is easy to care for.
I’ve repotted my Echinocactus grusonii the other day for it has outgrown its medium-sized container. Six years ago, this plant had the size of the human fist. Now, this sphere-looking succulent is about six inches wide in diameter and six inches tall. It’s also called Golden Barrel Cactus or Golden Ball due to its sharp yellow spines, either straight or slightly curved, which grow along the 14 ribs of its rich green body. My cactus is still quite young; when fully matured this plant could have more than 30 ribs.
Yet, I don’t know who started to call this plant Mother-in-law’s Cushion but I could speculate. Perhaps the reason for this moniker is that its shape and spiny-look symbolizes the attitude and treatment of mothers toward their sons/daughters-in law — you know… critical, tough, nurturing, etc. Anyway according to cacti experts, this plant could grow up to a meter tall and would produce yellow flowers at its crown AFTER 20 years… Well, in that case I have to wait for 14 more years to see this plant bloom…Hmmmnn…I’ll be a great grandma by then…
Just like its tough appearance, this succulent is easy to grow even when I neglect it or give it minimal care. It thrives well in warm climates and likes full sun exposure. It requires only a minimum water, so it’s best to be planted in pots with large holes at the bottom for proper drainage. Water-clogging should be avoided though, for this plant is rot-prone.
If I don’t have my eyeglasses on while tending to my cacti, I would see a bunch of small white spiders creeping on my Gymnocalycium denudatum. I would often confuse the spines for bugs attacking the cream-white flowers. Well, I guess that is why they obviously call this succulent as Spider Cactus due to the way its white spines look like — spider legs that cling close to the body of the plant. (See the photo below.)
The dark green body of my Spider cactus is glossy and globular, about 4 inches tall and 3 1/2 inches wide. It is “slightly chinned” and has eight rounded ribs. Each spines are about a centimeter long and not injurious.
The Spider Cactus is very easy to grow. It requires full sunlight, enough water and a dose of fertilizer to yield cream-white flowers with some rosy tinge at the edge. Depending on the size of the cactus, the flowers are about 5 – 7 cm wide.
Last 2005, I bought my Myrtillocactus geometrizans from Rose, a dealer of cacti and succulents. Initially, the plant had lots of erect stems with hazy blue patches. Hence, its common name Blue Candle, Blue Myrtle Cactus,or Whortleberry Cactus. When I repotted it in a sandy-loam soil, the cactus later on grew into a shrub about 3 feet tall. Its columnar stems have reddish-radial spines and a black central spine along its 5 ribs (some stems have six ribs). Also, some stems mutated into a cristate form.
In the photo above, I planted several erect side shoots of the Blue Candle in a small pot. One of the blue stems had an abnormal growth which added an interesting touch to this plant piece. I intended to put this potted cactus on a table so I added some small stones and a red coral for finishing touches.
Another variety of my Myrtillocactus geometrizans came from my plant buddy Baby Yu of Baroy, Lanao del Norte. The mother plant of this specimen has stems with four ribs; I don’t know what environmental factors in my garden affected it to produce stems with five ribs. Anyway, the single stem in the photo above is about 20 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. White markings are present on each side of this variety.