Rat-tail Cactus

If not for its 3 inch wide pinkish-red flowers, I would have given away my Aporocactus flagellaformis. This epiphyte, commonly known as the Rat’s Tail Cactus, has long stems densely covered with short yellowish or brownish spines. Those spines are formidable and I’m always wary when I get near this trailing plant so most often I leave it alone.

3 inch wide pinkish-red flowers

This succulent is due for repotting for its stems are overcrowded. Yet, I don’t look forward to repot this plant or propagate it; I remember the countless times being punctured by those needles… Arggh… not a happy thought. I could always prepare a nice pot filled with sandy-loam soil for some stems to grow on, though.

spiny long stems

Presently, most of its stems are about an inch thick or less, and about less than a meter long. Those pale green stems could trail down to 6 meters when fully matured, or so as the book says. Also, along the entire length of those stems appear its fruits and flowers.

blooming for several days

I remembered that it did not yield flowers before when I put it in a shaded area in my garden. However, it flourished well when I placed it on the deck baluster upstairs. I guess it prefers an open air where there is plenty of air, sunlight and rain.

While most cactus rot during the wet season, the Rat’s Tail Cactus welcomes the rain for it shows off more blooms on its stems.  I just keep in mind that this cactus doesn’t like being disturbed or moved when it is showing-off its blossoms. Anyway, humans, bumble bees, stingless bees and small back ants often couldn’t stay away from its red funnel-shaped flowers.

funnel-shaped flower

The Old Lady

white fleece

Neither the silver hairs of my head nor the tuft of fur of my house pet, this white fleece belongs to my cactus Espostoa lanata. This no-fuss ornamental plant is named after the botanist Nicolas E. Esposto and is commonly known as ‘the old lady’. Sometimes it is called as ‘the old Peruvian man’ because its original habitat is the Andes of Peru. I thought to write about it today because it attracted my new plant collector-friends yesterday.

columnar cactus

Since I planted my Espostoa in the 1990’s, it flourished into several columns. Presently, each stems is about 5 cm in diameter with 20 ribs.Oftentimes, those ribs are hidden with short spines and long bristles. The spines are mostly thin and yellowish in color and the hairy covering is, in this specimen, whitish. When fully developed, the stems divide into several nodes (see the photo above.) This specimen would have reached its full growth if I planted it on the ground but due to lack of space, I planted it on a medium-sized pot.

matured stems

They say that this species rarely flourish with too much TLC (tender, loving, care). In other words, once you plant it just let mother nature nurture it. Keeping this in mind, I planted it in a pot filled with loamy soil mixed with coarse sand. Then, I put the potted plant in an open area where it is fully exposed to sun and slightly exposed to rain. Too much rain could cause its rotting.

I don’t have photos of its flowers because my ‘old lady’ hasn’t produced any yet. All I know is that its night flowering blooms are whitish-green about 5 cm across.


Mistletoe Cactus

minute flower and fruits

It’s not yet Christmas but since this plant started blooming the other day, I thought to give my Rhipsalis teres an attention. This plant is also known as the Mistletoe cactus or Wickerwork cactus. My friend Mrs.Tolero, a jet-setter and a plant collector, gave me this epiphyte as a present from her travels sometime in year 2000. She told me that this plant came from South America.

cactus on hanging basket

I knew so little about this plant and for years I didn’t think much of it. I thought it was just an air plant for it doesn’t resemble a normal cactus. It has no spines, just a few bristles here and there.

no spines, just bristles on stems

Its stems are slender, they’re about 0.5 cm in diameter. I also observed that the length of each stems vary but they’re commonly connected together in long joints. The young stems are short about 2 cm, angular and have bristles. The old stems, on the other hand, are long, rounded and smooth. Moreover, the branches are in whorls and they grow downwards, hence, they are usually potted in a hanging basket.

jointed stems

Anyway, what I like about this plant is its fruits; they’re like little round white pearls which decorate the plant. Then, there’s its less than 1 cm wide yellow flowers blooming on either the tip or on the side of the stems. I guess the flowers of my Rhipsalis is somewhat smaller than expected; I’ve been informed that the normal size of its flowers is 2.5cm wide.

growing downward

As per advise of my friend on how to care for Rhipsalis, I put this plant in a shady area where the cactus could avoid exposure from direct sunlight. I also watered it regularly during months of hot season. I cut down its ration of water during the rainy season though.

harmless epiphyte

Due to ignorance, I’ve used chunks of coconut husks as potting medium on this for plant for years. Just recently, I’ve learned that Rhipsalis requires soil rich in humus. So I did the logical thing, I re-potted it with sandy-loam soil. Hopefully, I’ll see bigger flowers the next time it blooms.

less than 1 cm yellow flower

Black Plate

This is the mother plant of my G. mihanovichii var friedrichii.

Meet my Black Plate, it’s neither in black color or a circular dish made of porcelain or glass but a spiny living plant. My cacti dealer named Rose brought me a cultivar last June 2005.

This cactus may not be rare but it’s an old-time favorite among cacti enthusiasts. Its scientific name is Gymnocalycium mihanovichii var friedrichii. 

Presently, my Black Plate’s globular body is 5 cm tall, 6 cm in diameter and has a reddish-brown color. (I’ve learned that G. friedrichii could grow up to10-12 cm tall and 6-12 cm in diameter.) It has 8 prominent ribs with crossbands of lighter colors; its strong dark markings are often in red color. Its defensive structure consist of 3-6 awl-shaped radial spines. Its lovely pale pink flower is 6 cm long and is funnel-shaped.

This plant is very easy to grow. It requires light shade to full sun.However, this cacti doesn’t tolerate water-clogging so I’m careful not to over-water it.


Plaid Cactus

When the word “plaid” is mentioned, oftentimes my brain projects the image of Scotland’s national costume.

So I googled this word and Merriam-Webster Dictionary came up with the following definition:

plaid -noun \ˈplad\ : a pattern of unevenly spaced repeated stripes crossing at right angles

I guess this definition fits on the description of Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, commonly known as the Plaid Cactus. The green-brown body of the plant has a pattern of banding and ridges. Moreover, this cactus produces pink flowers.




Hooked in beauty

“And the heart that is soonest awake to the flowers is always the first to be touch’d by the thorns.” -Thomas Moore

Mammillaria swinglei is one deadly beauty. A few days ago, I found a dead bird in its pot, still hooked with the plant. Though its funnel-like flowers are in-odorous, they are 3 cm wide and are quite attractive; their petals are white with pink stripes at the center. Its stems are without latex, about 10-25 cm tall, 3-5 cm in diameter, and dull green.

Its defense mechanism is composed of central and radial spines. Its 1 to 4 dark brown or black central spines are needle-like, the lowest one elongated (up to 1 1/2 cm long), hooked at apex or sometimes straight. In addition, its 11 to 18 radial spines are obscuring the tubercles; they are 7-14 mm long, needle-like rather stout, and are dull white with dark tips.


Fascinating freak 2

According to the botanists, fasciation or cristation is an abnormal development of an apical meristem characterized by indeterminate proliferative growth. That is, a plant becomes crested when its apex develops laterally from a linear meristem rather than a single point.

In simple translation, crested plants are freaks and only mother Nature could be capable of creating such ugly-pretty mutants because no one has ever produced this kind of effect artificially.  Some plant collectors consider these crested plants as real living sculptures because they look very outstanding when potted and certainly attract a lot of attention, just like my Cleistocactus winteri forma cristata in the photo above. I often ask what could have caused the cristation of my cleistocactus. Could it be a natural mutation? Is it possible that insects or disease have damaged its growth point?

Despite their weird appearance, crested cacti are easy to cultivate. Occasionally, I trim any normal shoots off  the cactus to help the crested form grow better and truer to form. However, sometimes these normal shoots can crest again after some normal growth. To keep the plant and the cuttings from rotting, I always bear in mind to place them in a dry area for at least a week or preferably two weeks.