PLANT OF THE MONTH Library     page 2
serves as a reference library of descriptions of cactus and succulent plants 
designated as Plant-of-the-Month genera in the Cactus Chronicle newsletter.

This section will grow as the web master adds information on past and current POM selections.

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 Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society
 Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society


Echevaria - July 2018, May 2011, October 2007

Echeveria is one the principal members of the succulent New World Crassulaceae.  Echeveria come principally from the mountains of Eastern Mexico, although there are plants found from Texas into South America.

The genus Echeveria is named after Atanasio Echeverria illustrator of a projected Flora Mexicana prepared under the direction of Martin Sesse, from 1789 to 1803.  Martin Sesse received a Royal Patent for a botanical expedition to Mexico from Charles III, King of Spain in 1788. Charles III was one of the most enlightened of the late 18th century kings, with widespread cultural and scientific interests. Unfortunately, he died shortly after giving the Patent, and before supplying any money. Sesse went on with the expedition, and although chronically short of funds, and often sick and hungry, with Jose Mocino, Atanasio Echeverria, and others, collected hundreds of plants over a 15 year period. The three returned to Spain, expecting
to become famous and publish their Flora Mexicana, only to be ignored by the King.

Sesse returned to his land holdings; Mocino went to work at the Museum of Natural History in Madrid, and Echeverria was hired as an artist’s assistant.

Mocino sent the original drawings to the famous botanist Alphonse De Candolle as Napoleon marched on Madrid. The originals were lost in the confusion of the Napoleonic wars, but the drawings were saved by Alphonse De Candolle, who hired 120 draftsmen to work for 10 days making several sets of precise tracings of Echeverria’s drawings. De Candolle also named the genus in a lecture in 1827, first publishing it in 1828.

Coming from mountainous regions, Echeveria prefer well drained soil, and good ventilation. They also prefer cooler night temperatures, looking their best from late winter through spring. The plants swell with the winter rains, and as growth starts the colors become more intense.

With time, most Echeveria offset between older leaves. These offsets can be removed, the bottom­most leaves of the offset removed, and the stem and remaining leaves planted as soon as the cut stem is dry. The terminal rosette should also be periodically removed and restarted in the same way, with all the dead leaves removed.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Echeveria agavoides cv ‘Ebony’, Echeveria etna, Echeveria subrigida,
Echeveria 'Blue Curls', Echeveria lilacina, 
John Pilbeam, The genus Echeverias, 2008
L. Schulz and A. Kapitany, Echeveria Cultivars, 2005
Tom Glavich May 2005 - Edited by Steve Frieze, May 2011

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Echinocactus - July 2015, November 2010, April 2008 & 2007

Echinocactus is Latin for "spiny" cactus or "hedgehog" cactus, both of which refer to the prominent, very sharp spines found in every species. The genus has roughly 6-10 species in a range that covers all of the Southwestern US from Death Valley to Oklahoma and Texas, as well as the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of Mexico. There are two species native to the US, one covering the western half of the Southwest and the other covering the eastern half. E. texensis, commonly called the Horse Crippler, is from Texas, New Mexico, eastern Arizona, Oklahoma, and northern Mexico. E. polycephalus is a California native, as well as occurring in Nevada, Arizona, and northern Mexico. It is among the most heavily cloaked in spines of any cactus.

The most famous and widely grown species, E. grusonii (Golden Barrel), is also the rarest and most restricted in the wild. There is a link between the two as large numbers of Golden Barrels were dug out of the wild for the horticultural trade. Thankfully large nursery grown specimens are readily available today, reducing the pressure on the remaining plants. Unfortunately, this already threatened species was dealt a more serious blow in the 1990's when the Zimapan Dam was built in the heart of this species range. Countless plants were destroyed when the lake created by the dam submerged prime E. grusonii habitat.

While some species are extremely cold tolerant (i.e. the native US species) and others less so, all species of Echinocactus can handle winter temperatures in the Los Angeles region. They do well in the ground, though good drainage is a must as most species don't like our wet winters. They also do well as large potted specimens, requiring normal cactus care.  Echinocactus has wooly fruit.
--Kyle Williams
Photo in Cactus Chronicle:
Echinocactus polycephalus

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Echinocereus - April 2013 & 2012, March 2011,  September 2009, May 2007, March 2006

Echinocereus species can be found throughout the Western United States, and the range of species stretches through the American west and through Northern and Central Mexico to about Mexico City. As might be expected from a genus covering such a large range, Echinocereus are extremely varied in form, ranging from nearly spineless green balls such as E. knippelianus, to very spiny short columnar species such as E. engelmannii, to pencil thin sticks such a E. poselgeri.

In general, Echinocereus is an under-appreciated genus. Most growers have one or two, but having killed a few in their early collecting days, usually because of over watering, concentrate on other genera. Most of the species are in fact easy to grow. Many of the species are quite variable, and exhibit different spination and flower colors depending on the local environment. As a result, a large number of species were named. These are being reduced to a more conservative 30 to 50 species. The varieties and local growth forms provide an enormous range of interesting plants to grow.

Most Echinocereus have spectacular flowers, giving rise to such common names as Claret Cup, Strawberry Cactus, Calico Cactus. These common names are often attached to more than one species.  Echinocereus flowers erupt through the skin, leaving scars. Offsets also erupt through the skin.

Propagation from cuttings is relatively easy, but attention to cleanliness is important. Use of Rootone, or another rooting compound containing a fungicide helps ensure success.

A very popular species of Echinocereus, often found in the shows, is pectinatus v. rubispinus. This plants produces a vibrant rose-colored flower during the spring and its spines retain a reddish tinge throughout the year.

Echinocereus viridiflorus v. canus is a gorgeous plant that produces stiff white spines tinged with red in the mature specimen and develops greenish flowers during the spring season. This plant originates from the Trans-Pecos area of Texas.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
 Echinocereus viridiflorus v. canus, Echinocereus pectinatus v. rubispinus,
Vince Basta's Echinocereus baileyi  in the 15th InterCity Show, 
D. Hunt, The New Cactus Lexicon
C. Innes and C. Glass, Cacti
Tom Glavitch, 2004 
Edited Steve Frieze, 2011

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Echinofossulocactus - July 2017

Stenocactus and Echinofossulocactus are the same genus. The name of this easy to grow and uniquely ribbed genus has been a subject of contention since the 19th century. The genus was originally described in 1841 by George Lawrence, but the description was invalid. It was redescribed in 1898 by Karl Schumann. Various attempts to straighten out the names went on for the next hundred years. The name Stenocactus seems to have finally triumphed.

Echino traces to Echinus, which is Latin for Hedgehog, a spiny porcupine-like rodent from Europe, and also, equally likely, and much closer in appearance, a spiny, edible sea urchin from the Mediterranean. Stenos is Greek for narrow, an obvious referral to the many narrow ribs on almost all of the species.

They are all spiny plants, collected much more for the appearance of the spines and the wonderful curved ribs than their flowers, although the flowers can be quite showy.  Many species are noteworthy as being among the very first cactus of the year to bloom. It happens as early as January in our climate. All of the species (there are ten) are very variable, and as a result, there are numerous varieties and forms that can enhance any collection. Most of the species are reasonably small, flowering at two years, when only an inch or so in diameter. A good  representative collection can be kept on a table.

Stenocactus are native to Central to Northern Mexico. The genus is closely related to Ferocactus, differing by the lack of nectar glands, the lack of a ring of hairs above the stamens, and size.

Stenocactus grow in grass lands, and need some protection from full sun.  They are easy to grow, putting on most of their body weight each year in the early spring to summer. Plants growing outdoors will grow slowly during the winter using just the water from winter rains. It is important not to fertilize during the darker days of December, January or February, or etoliation or stretching of the body will occur. The narrow ribs, the wooly areoles, and the dense spines are an ideal habitat for mealy bugs. Frequent inspection of the plants will prevent them from spreading. Older plants sometimes get corky near the base. Keeping the plant in continuous growth delays this, but in some species the cork is inevitable.

Identifying the species of an Stenocactus is as difficult as identifying the genus is easy. For the most part, they tend to look alike, however the size and shape of the spines is quite distinctive for many species.
​-- Kyle Williams
Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
​ Stenocactus vaupelianus, Stenocactus sp. ‘Palmillas’,
  Stenocactus sp. ‘Palmillas’

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Echinomastus - March 2015, August 2014

Echinomastus has about six to nine species in northern Mexico and the United States, particularly in Arizona, Texas, and adjacent parts of Mexico. Most species are covered in dense spines. Interestingly, the various species could easily be mistaken for other genera at first glance. E. johnsonii resembles Ferocactus, E. mariposensis looks like a Mammillaria, while 
E. erectocentrus could be mistaken for an Echinocereus. The reality is that Echinomastus is most closely related to Sclerocactus. In cultivation they take typical cactus care, and most are reasonably to very cold tolerant, certainly able to withstand any cold snaps in our region.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Echinomastus erectocentrus, Echinomastus johnsonii
-- Kyle Williams

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Echinopsis - March 2017, May 2012 and 2010, May-June 2008, June 2007
     (including Lobivia) - April 2018
Most cacti have attractive flowers, but in general we grow them for the look of the plant itself. Echinopsis are an exception to this. It is a genus of nearly 200 species and hundreds more cultivars. Most plants are small to medium columnar cacti that are green and fairly nondescript, although some species can reach 15 feet or more in height. They are generally ignored when made available for sale if they aren’t in flower. However, come bloom time they produce some of the most stunning flowers of any cacti.

This is enhanced by the extensive breeding that has been done among this genus. Modern taxonomic research has found that several genera of cacti belong in Echinopsis, most notably Lobivia and Trichocereus.

The standard Echinopsis flower is a few inches across and born on a long tube, giving it a trumpet like appearance. Many of the wild species have white flowers and bloom at night, but breeding has produced an array of colors that include red, yellow, orange, pink, and every color in between (as well as multicolor flowers). Some modern hybrids have been bred to produce flowers eight inches or more in diameter! An especially nice feature of these plants is they often produce flowers in large clusters which produce an amazing display.

Not all species and cultivars have plain plants. Most of the Lobivia group are small and distinctive even without flowers. Plants like Echinopsis ‘Fuzzy Navel’ and ‘Haku Jo’ have attractive spines and tufts of white hair. This gives you a handsome looking plant even in times when it isn’t flowering. The San Pedro Cactus, E. pachanoi, is a great choice for a large columnar cactus for the landscape which requires little to no special care. This cactus is also famous as a source of mescaline, the same halogenic chemical found in Peyote (Lophophora spp.). While I don’t advocate drug use, if people who used Peyote switched to San Pedro cactus it would be beneficial on an ecological level as San Pedro is fast growing and the same plant can be harvested over and over. By contrast, Peyote species are being decimated in the wild as they are a small, slow growing, endangered cactus that is completely destroyed when harvested.

The best way to buy a hybrid Echinopsis is of course to see it in bloom. That’s not always possible, but most of the nicest hybrids are named. So do some research online and write down the name of the types you like then take the time to check tags at a cactus sale. Alternatively, look for sellers who provide pictures at their sales table. Plants are easy to grow and most can live happily in a pot or in your landscape with standard cactus care.
--​ by Kyle Williams 
Photo credits in Cactus Chronicle: Kyle Williams.  Echinopsis (Lobivia) arachnacantha
Echinopsis (Lobivia) famatimensis, Echinopsis (Lobivia) tiegeliana

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Epiphytes - January 2019, May 2011

Epiphytic cacti have a place in every collection. They are easy to grow, requiring remarkably little in the way of care, in general have few spines, and most reward the grower with a spectacular show of flowers.

In habitat, epiphytic cacti root and survive on the tree tops of jungle flora. They are not considered parasites but simply coexist with their hosts while causing no damage. Epiphytes are typically found in the rain forests of Central and South America.

Epiphytic cacti like a richer mix than most ground loving cacti. A frequently used potting mix includes equal parts of potting soil, bark and pumice. Good drainage in the mix is important for good growth. Regular feeding, and a more constant supply of moisture, particularly during the growing season are also important.

Epiphytic cacti are all easily propagated from either cuttings and seed. Cuttings can be taken any time the plant is in active growth, spring being best, but any time during the summer and early fall will also work. Thin stemmed epiphytes, such as most of the Rhipsalis can be planted immediately. Thicker leafed genera should be allowed to dry for a day or two before planting. Zygocactus can be easily propagated from cuttings, but for reasonable success, two segments need to be used rather than one.

Seed of many of the epiphytic cacti, particularly Rhipsalis is hard to come by. One or two species are occassionally offered by the CSSA seed bank. For those with an interest in hybridization, many epiphytes are easily pollinated and cross pollinated both within, and across genera. When the fruit turns color and hardens, it can be harvested, the seeds removed, cleaned, and stored until the following spring.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Rhipsalis pachyptera, Epiphyllum ‘Lemon Custard,’
Hatiora salicornioides
C. Innes and C. Glass, Cacti 
J. Pilbeam, Cacti for the Connoisseur 
Cullmann, Gotz & Groner, The Encyclopedia of Cacti
Tom Glavich December 2002 - - Edited by Steve Frieze, 2011

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Eriosyce - August 2015, July 2012

Eriosyce is a ubiquitous genus found throughout Chile in a wide variety of habitats. This plant group can be found in arid valleys and get much of their moisture from morning fogs and other light forms of precipitation. They can also be found in sandy dunes in close proximity to the Chilean coast, and in the Andes' mountains at elevations of 6,000 feet or more. It is a somewhat cylindrical plant with prominent ribs. Eriosyce are armed with dense very solid spines of varying color. The opportunity to see Eriosyce aurata with golden spines in the Andes is breathtaking. These plants can be up to three feet in diameter. Eriosyce has many features that make them a close relative of plants in the genus of Neochilenea and Neoporteria.

Eriosyce are a relatively hardy plant that can survive for an indefinite period of time in the rocky crevices found in many Chilean valleys. In habitat, they are considered to be slow growing plants.  

Given the idiosyncratic conditions that Eriosyce face in Chile, one would expect the cultivation of these plants in Southern California to be a difficult, if not an impossible chore. With our frequent winter rains, fogs, and extreme temperatures (especially during the summer) this would seem to be a sizeable challenge for growers. Fortunately, Eriosyce are relatively easy to grow. They react well to the same well drained soil mix, watering, and fertilization schedules that most cacti are subjected to. They also tend to grow many times faster than they would in habitat since they will receive regular moisture and are protected from the extreme conditions that they would be exposed to in habitat. Some species can even be grown in the open ground, as long as the soil is well drained. They do tend to be slower growers than many other genera.

Eriosyce can be propagated from 'pups' (division of clumps). Seed is available from the CSSA seed bank, and most cactus seed houses, and germinate quickly in the spring. They should be started in a moist potting soil, and moved to drier surroundings after germination. 

Eriosyce are well worth growing and will produce spectacular plants as they mature.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Eriosyce aurata (golden spine), Eriosyce taltaensis,
Eriosyce subgibbosa ssp. subgibbosa
Schulz, R., Copiapoa 2006,  
Kattermann, F., Eriosyce The genus revised and amplified
-- Steven Frieze June 2012

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Escobaria - February 2017, July 2014

Escobaria is a moderate sized genera of approximately 23 species of small North American cacti similar in appearance to Mammillaria and were originally included in that genus. They share in common a small, mostly globular, stature and an incredible level of cold tolerance, at least in some species. Escobaria vivipara and E. missouriensis are particularly widespread species covering most of western and midwestern North America. In fact, the native range of E. vivipara extends all the way into Canada, a feat matched only by a few species of Opuntia. This cold tolerance allows people in even the coldest climates to grow these species outdoors.

While all plants in this group are relatively small, many can form good sized clumps in time (much like Mammillaria). Some of the variation between species include having globular plants and more cylindrical, upright plants. Flowers vary from yellow to pink. Some species are covered in dense white spines while others are more sparsely covered, allowing the green body of the plant to shine through. A large number of species produce tap roots. Cultivation is similar to Mammillaria and other small cacti. While some members of these genera are renowned for their cold tolerance, keep in mind many species come from warm climates. Of course that isn't much of an issue for us in California, but anyone growing them in cold climates needs to make sure they pick the cold tolerant species. Most species take general cactus care and do well in smaller pots, and so make nice additions to any collection.

Escobaria is more closely related to Coryphantha and Mammillaria than to Acharagma. In fact many botanists feel that Escobaria should not be recognized as a distinct genus, instead lumping all the species in Coryphantha itself. This is what the authors of "The Flora of North America", the field guide to all the plants of the USA and Canada, chose to do. To make it even more complicated, there is evidence to suggest that Coryphantha shouldn't be a genus either and should all be considered species of MammillariaCoryphantha and Escobaria differ from Mammillaria largely in flowering on new growth while Mammillaria blooms primarily on previous year's growth. Coryphantha and Escobaria differ from each other only by details of the seeds. Confused yet? Don’t worry, the important thing is to learn about these plants and just call them a name you are comfortable with until the botanists sort out the relationship issues. Don't be shocked, however, if one day we call all Escobaria Mammillaria once again.
-- Kyle Williams
​Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
 Escobaria missouriensis, Escobaria minima

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Espostoa - October 2018, June 2009

Espostoa is an example of the most hardy of the columnar cacti. Found in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes, the genus Espostoas, can tolerate cooler temperatures and are a fine landscape plant in addition to a prize specimen in a collection. Most species in this genus have a prolific mass of white hair and an extensive number of spines that are sometimes covered by the hair. Espostoas flourish in full sun (caution is advised in the hottest areas) and in well drained soil.

Columnar cacti are robust growers, given adequate water, fertilizer, root room and support. They expect more nitrogen in their soil and more water than most globular cacti, when they are growing. They do well in normal cactus mix, as long as they get additional fertilization.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Espostoa melanostele
D C. Zappi, Pilosocereus
D. Hunt, The New Cactus Lexicon
Tom Glavich August 2004 - Edited by Steven Frieze, 2009

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Euphorbia - March 2017, August 2017, July 2016, October 2014, July 2013, September 2012, June 2010, 
                            April 2009, August 2007

Euphorbias are among the most successful of the plant families, covering an amazing geographical and environmental range. In horticulture, they span the range from English Garden plants to trees, stem succulents, geophytic miniatures, to medusoid globulars to caudiciforms.

Caudiciform euphorbias are plants that possess a swollen base or root to store water and nutrients through dry periods that may last from several months to years . When the rains finally arrive, the stored water and energy give them a head start over the surrounding vegetation.

Although many caudiciform Euphorbias are very easy to grow, with the swollen root making them very tolerant of under watering, some are very difficult, turning immediately to mush when over watered, or watered out of season. Care must be given in watering, keeping them warm and wet while growing, and cooler and dry when dormant. Euphorbias from tropical areas (Madagascar, and central Africa) are particularly prone to rot if left cold and damp while dormant. Protection is mandatory if your plants are to survive the cold weather. Placing them in a greenhouse, or even a garage for a month or two in the middle of the winter will greatly increase their endurance potential.

Most caudiciform Euphorbias are easy to propagate. The green stems can be removed, left to dry for at least week or even a bit more, and then replanted. The newly planted stems take a few weeks to establish, and then start growing.

Some cuttings will not form caudexes unless double cut. Once growth is strong, the top of the green shoot needs to be cut off again to force the plant to start a caudex. Some species form a perfectly symmetrical caudex when grown from seed, but form distorted (but often more interesting) caudexes when grown from cuttings.

In collections or when entered into shows, the caudexes of these plant are often raised above the soil line to expose the intricate and exotic root system that are typically submerged in habitat. Once exposed, the caudex will no longer grow or expand at the same rate they would if submerged below the soil line.

Euphorbia knuthii is a widely grown species that produces branches that, if not trimmed, can reach two feet in length.

A very highly prized species is Euphorbia cylindrifolia v. tuberifera. This species originates from Madagascar. When mature, the plant forms a round to spherical caudex-tuber from which arms protrude. The leaves are cylinder-like.

Euphorbia persistens from Mozambique and Northern South Africa has spectacular patterned stems from a well developed caudex. More tropical and more difficult than some, it makes a wonderful specimen with age.

Euphorbia stellata is another South African species, similar in appearance and nearly as easy to grow. It too makes a caudex quickly.

Euphorbia squarrosa is one of the classic caudiciform species. Easily grown from double cut cuttings, it rapidly forms a great caudex. It tolerates being outdoors in Southern California without much protection even during the rainy season. It is native to South Africa.

Euphorbia capsaintemariensis is native to Madagascar and can be found in the southern most point in this island country in Cap Saint Marie. This euphorbia comes from a very sunny area with substantial amounts of wind. Plants in habitat often have a wind-swept look

Lastly, Euphorbia ambovombensis is still another unique Madagascan plant that forms a sizeable caudex in a short period of time and produces handsome branches and leaf structure are almost burgundy in sufficient sun.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Euphorbia ambovombensis, Euphorbia capsaintemariensis, Euphorbia cylindrifolia v. tuberifera
Euphorbia squarrosa, Euphorbia stellata, Euphorbia persistens, Euphorbia knuthii
Gordon Rowley - Caudiciform and Pachycaul Succulents 
Herman Schwartz - The Euphorbia Journals
by Tom Glavich May 2002 
Edited by Steve Frieze, September 2012

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Hamatocactus - August 2018
​For more on Thelocactus click here.  The paragraph below is an excerpt.

Several other genera have been linked to Thelocactus, including Echinomastus, Leuchtenbergia, Glandulicactus, and Ferocactus. In addition the genus Hamatocactus has been bounced around between Thelocactus, Ferocactus, & Hamatocactus with some taxonomists dividing it up between the three, with some species being moved into each genus. More studies of DNA are needed before this can be sorted out.  
-- Kyle Williams

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Haworthia - April 2019, April 2016, March 2013, April 2012, March 2009, May - June 2008
Haworthia retuse/a type - November 2010

Haworthia are native to South Africa, and grow in a winter-rainfall, Mediterranean environment not very different from Southern California. Most are easily grown, preferring some shade and growing mostly in the winter and spring. Many will grow year round if watered properly and maintained at a reasonably warm temperature. Haworthias flower during the spring, and some species will remain in flower for an extended period of time; two months or longer. However, the flowers are small and generally off-white and not particularly notable. Haworthias are grown for their beautiful leaf shapes and colors.

Haworthia in general are tolerant of almost any potting mix, and success has been reported with everything from straight pumice to potting soil-pumice or perlite mixes, to plain potting soil, and even garden soil. They like light fertilization when growing, any balanced fertilizer will do. An application of time release fertilizer in late winter will improve growth from late winter and early spring rains. Healthy Haworthias generally have stiff thick white roots. When repotting, it’s important to inspect the roots for mealy bugs, and for old, dried brown or hollow roots, which are often the source of infection or rot. These should be removed back to healthy tissue. Haworthias are subject to root rot if watered excessively or sit in damp conditions for long periods. The plant is often salvageable by removing the damage roots and other decayed material and then placing it in a rooting medium such as pumice.

The genus Haworthia is divided into three subgenera, and these are further divided into 8 sections. Section Retusae contains the many of the best known plants including, Haworthia retusa, Haworthia comptoniana, Haworthia magnifica, and Haworthia reticulata. These are all characterized by thick fat leaves, with intricate patterns, usually in a lighter green than the main leaf color. Also characteristic of this plant are the transparency of the leaves allowing for photosynthesis to occur within the plant body.

Haworthia retusa is found in the Riverdale area of South Africa under bushes or in similarly protected areas. Haworthia comptoniana. Named after Professor R. H. Compton, this species is endemic to the Willowmore district of South Africa. This species often grows under quartz patch stones and is difficult to locate in the field.

Haworthia magnfica v. splendons like the previous species found in South Africa. This plant grows even to the ground and its coloration helps to camouflage it from damage from insects and other potential predators.

Also found in South Africa, is Haworthia reticulata, a species which has a number of subspecies associated with it. Haworthia reticulata is a liberally clustering plant that will turn reddish-bronze color in bright light.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Haworthia reticulata v. reticulata, Haworthia magnifica v. splendons,
Haworthia comptoniana, Haworthia retusa
M. Bayer, Haworthia Revisited
R. Schulz, Haworthia For The Collector
Tom Glavich March 2002, Edited by Steve Frieze, November 2010

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Hoodia - September 2008

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Hoya - September 2007

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Huernia - September 2008

The genus Huernia (family Apocynaceae, subfamily Asclepiadoideae) consists of stem succulents from Eastern and Southern Africa, first described as a genus in 1810. The flowers are five-lobed, usually somewhat more funnel- or bell-shaped than in the closely related genus Stapelia, and often striped vividly in contrasting colours or tones, some glossy, others matte and wrinkled depending on the species concerned. To pollinate, the flowers attract flies by emitting a scent similar to that of carrion. The genus is considered close to the genera Stapelia and Hoodia. The name is in honour of Justin Heurnius (1587–1652) a Dutch missionary who is reputed to have been the first collector of South African Cape plants. His name was actually misspelled by the collector.

Various species of Huernia are considered famine food by the inhabitants of Konso special woreda in southern Ethiopia. The local inhabitants, who call the native species of this genus baqibaqa indiscriminately, eat it with prepared balls of sorghum; they note that baqibaqa tastes relatively good and has no unpleasant side-effects when boiled and consumed. As a result, local farmers encouraged it to grow on stone walls forming the terraces, where it does not compete with other crops.

Phylogenetic studies have shown the genus to be monophyletic, and most closely related to the Tavaresia genus, and to a widespread branch of stapeliads comprising the genera Orbea, Piaranthus and Stapelia.
​-- from Wikipedia

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Gasteria - April 2018, May 2013 & 2012 & 2009, March 2008 & 2007

Gasteria is a popular and easily grown genus that has been collected since the 17th century. Some species look very similar to Aloe while others resemble Haworthia. This is not surprising as these three genera are very closely related. So close in fact that recent evolutionary studies are causing some confusion about where one genus ends and the other begins. That being said, Gasteria can be differientiated morphologically from Aloe and Haworthia by examining the flowers. Gasteria flowers have a distinctive narrow upper portion that expands out to a fat base that resembles a stomach. Sure enough, Gasteria is derived from "gaster" which means "stomach" in Latin.  Interestingly the common name for the species is Ox Tongue, another "digestive" reference!

​Gasteria come in a much greater diversity of sizes than Haworthia, though they are smaller on average than most Aloe. Gasteria ranges in size from about an inch to several feet in diameter. Almost all plants start out with the leaves in two rows (distichous), although most eventually begin to spiral. Gasteria are quite variable in appearance. Collectors need to be cautioned that they have definite juvenile and adult forms, have local variations in appearance, and have form and growth habits that are dependent on the soil type and amount of sunlight. Not realizing this runs you the risk of buying the same species twice!

This genus contains approximately 20-25 species, nearly all native to South Africa (one species ranges into Namibia). Typical natural habitats are humus rich, sandy soils. They grow on dry rocky hillsides and generally grow under larger shrubs particularly when young. They also can be found in rock fissures or in the shade of large rocks. The roots are shallow and thick which helps the plants obtain moisture from barely wet soils, and nourishment from decaying leaves and debris from larger shrubs.

Gasteria cultivation is easy and is nearly identical to that of Haworthia and winter growing Aloe. They are mostly winter and spring growers, but exhibit some growth all year except for the hottest part of the summer. They do well in a range of soil mixes and are more tolerant of organic matter than some succulents. They prefer partial shade, particularly in the afternoon; however the best color is obtained by giving them as much light and sun, short of sunburn, as possible.

Gasteria are generally free from most pests. The one difficulty is ‘black spot’, a fungus that attacks many Gasteria. The fungus is rarely fatal, but causes large unsightly black spots on the leaves. Since the spots are actual damage to the leaves, there is no way to remove the spots. The fungus can be minimized by keeping the leaves dry, and particularly keeping dew off the leaves. Fungicides can be used to prevent this disease, but probably aren't worth the hassle unless you have show quality plants you are concerned about.

 Gasteria are readily propagated from offsets at the base or on flower stalks, which can be simply pulled off and planted. Leaf cuttings will also root easily. Gasteria flowers are often visited by hummingbirds, and these visits often result in pollination. Seed can be collected as soon as the fruits start to dry. Cross pollination can produce interesting plants and many hybrids are available, as are several variegated cultivars. Intergeneric hybrids with Aloe (called X Gasteraloe) and Haworthia (X Gasterhaworthia) are commonly seen.
-- Kyle Williams 
Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Stomach shaped flowers, Gasteria bicolor, Gasteria Hybrid
Photo credits: Kyle Williams.

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Geohintonia - May 2015

 . . . very rare in the wild, quite uncommon in most collections, and hardly anyone has mature specimens of them that are NOT wild dug.  Sometimes the most obscure plants can make for the most interesting subjects.

Geohintonia mexicana is the sole species in its genus. It is a small, slow growing cactus whose habitat is gypsum hills and cliffs of Nuevo Leon. In many places it is sympatric (grows in the same location as) Aztekium hintonii. Knowing this, it may not surprise you that both Geohintonia mexicana and Aztekium hintonii were discovered by the same people at the same time and were published as new species together in the same scientific paper. Further scientific research into the evolutionary relationships of the cactus family has shown Aztekium and Geohintonia to be very closely related. Visually there is a something of a resemblence between the genera, though Geohintonia is quite distinct in having many more ribs and no wrinkles. Some have gone so far as to suggest Geohintonia could be a hybrid between A. hintonii and Echinocactus grusonii (Golden Barrel Cactus) as they occur in the same area and are related. However, it is much  more reasonable to assume Geohintonia is an evolutionary distinct species that happens to resemble Aztekium and Echinocactus because it is a close relative, not because of some elaborate hybridization theory.

 Cultivation is not overly difficult. They are very, very slow growing cacti, so patience is a must. They can be sensitive to overwatering, but if you can grow an Ariocarpus you should be able to handle these plants. Plants having their roots is most people's preference, but grafting will give you a faster growing plant and less worries about watering. Growing from seed will take many, many years before you get a decent sized plant. Finding these plants for sale on grafted or on their own roots is one of the biggest challenges of all. If you see one for sale at a reasonable price grab it quick! Otherwise it will be gone before you know it.
-- Kyle Williams
Photo in Cactus Chronicle:
Geohintonia mexicana

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Grafted - October 2017

Grafting is the process of taking two or more varieties of related plants and physically combining them into a single functioning plant. Usually, the idea is to put a slow growing or difficult to grow plant on top of an easy, fast growing plant. Why would anyone besides Dr. Frankenstein want to do this? Because grafted plants are almost always easier and faster growing than the desirable plant would be on its own roots. In fact, in certain cases it is literally impossible to grow some plants without grafting.

So you have a rare plant that is notorious for dying if you look at it the wrong way and you want to graft it to increase your odds of success. What do you need to do? First, determine if it is a type of plant that can be grafted. For all intents and purposes you cannot graft Monocots. Succulent Monocots include Aloe, Haworthia, Gasteria, Agave, flowering bulbs, and others. Everything else is a Dicot and can be grafted, at least in theory. Cacti, Euphorbia, Adenium, Pachypodium & Stapeliads are the most commonly grafted succulents. If you are unsure, just Google the name of your plant.

Step two is finding an appropriate rootstock. You want an easy to grow, fast growing, hardy plant with an upright stem that is reasonably thick (to accommodate the desired plant or “scion”). It is absolutely critical that the rootstock be closely related to the desired plant. Generally this means the same plant family (in the botanical sense, again Google if you are unsure). So cacti must be grafted on other cacti, Euphorbias on Euphorbias, etc. There is no single rootstock that is ideal for every plant (even within a family), but there are several popular choices for each group each with their own plusses and minuses.

Step three is to physically graft the plants. Do this during the spring and summer as dormant or semi-dormant plants will not work. Detailed instructions of how to do the graft are beyond the scope of this article. But in short, you need to cut the top off the rootstock, cut the base off the scion then stick the two cut surfaces together. Pressure needs to be applied for a few days to a week, after which if the graft was successful the vascular systems of the plants have fused together and the top will start growing. If it fails you’ll know pretty quickly because the scion will shrivel and fall off. It takes practice and even experts don’t get 100% success.
 — Kyle Williams
Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Turbinicarpus pseudopectinatus Crest, Euphorbia lactea Crest

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Gymnocactus - September 2016, January 2011

Gymnocactus is a genus that possesses many species.  Recently merged with the genus Turbinicarpus, this plant can be found in central Mexico. It typically contains a thick tap root that can, if watered excessively, generate root rot. Soil drainage is therefore a major consideration in the cultivation of Gymnocactus. Also a concern associated with overwatering is the potential for plant cracking. Gymnocactus viereckii is a species found in many collections. It is a solitary or clustering species with dense spines covering almost all of the plant. The apex of this globose species is typically covered with white wool giving the plant an exotic and special appearance. In habitat, Gymnocactus viereckii grows in higher altitudes on the sides of cliffs in rock cracks. It receives very little nutrients other than from leaves that are caught on a plant's spines. Gymnocactus viereckii produces a magenta flower that is stunning in contrast with the while wool and spines covering this plant.

Gymnocactus mandragora is a solitary plant that may branch if the growing tip of the plant is damaged or intentionally disfigured. Found in Mexico, this plant has hard dense white spines (brown tips) that are spirally arranged around a flattened tubercle. Gymnocactus
mandragora produces a white bloom with a pink midstripe.

Gymnocactus horripilus is a species originating in Mexico that ultimately clusters but at a very slow pace. The central spines of this plant are relatively long and brown which contrasts with the radials that are straight but are white changing to brown/black as they reach the tip. The deep purple flower blooms in the spring and summer.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Gymnocactus horripilus, Gymnocactus mandragora
D. Hunt, The New Cactus Lexicon 
C. Innes and C. Glass, Cacti
Steve Frieze, January 2011

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Gymnocalycium - April 2019, February 2016, April 2014, September 2012, April 2011, 
                                            January-February 2009, February 2008

Gymnocalycium are among the most popular of cacti, from the novice through the advanced grower. They are easy to grow; flower readily; come in a large number of distinguishable species; look great in flower, in bud, and even when dormant. A well grown plant will often flower several times during the year.

Gymnocalycium is an old genus, first named in 1845. The genus is named for the naked (spineless) calyx (the outermost covering of the bud and lower flower). Most Gymnocalycium are also readily identified by their ‘chins’ beneath the areoles.

The heart of the genus Gymnocalycium is Argentina, although the genus stretches into Southeastern Bolivia, Western Paraguay, Uruguay, and into the Southernmost part of Brazil. For the most part Gymnocalycium are grassland plants, growing and shaded in the grass of the Pampa and Chaco (dry forest) that covers much of Argentina. As a result, most like some protection from full afternoon sun, but need bright light during the day.

Gymnocalycium cultivation is easy. They need a dry rest during the winter; they can take Southern California climate without winter heat, as long as they are dry. They should be fed regularly with a weak general purpose fertilizer when growing. They are tolerant of any well drained soil, but constant wet will cause the roots to rot. Fortunately, they are easy to re-root, with roots generally re-growing in a just few months.

Gymnocalycium are easy to grow from seed, started in a well drained, damp potting mix in a plastic bag covered pot. Germination is fairly rapid, but growth during the first year is slow compared to most Mammillaria and many other genera. Vegetative propagation is also easy. Offsets from clumps can be removed, left to dry for a few days and potted. They generally root within a few weeks.

All the species and all the varieties and forms of Gymnocalycium are worth growing. Flowers range in color from red, pink, cream, white, and tans.

Other interesting species include Gymnocalycium baldianum (red flower), bayrianum, bruchii (pink flower), horstii (pink flower), mesopotamicum, mihanovichii, pungen, ragonesei, saglionis, schroederianum, spegazzinii, and striglianum.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Gymnocalycium pflanzii, Gymnocalycium bruchii, Gymnocalycium baldianum
Gymnocalcium spegazzinii, Gymnocalycium mihanovichii
Reference:  Pilbeam, J., Gymnocalycium, A Collector’s Guide
Tom Glavich September 2004 
Edited, Steve Frieze September 2012

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Ferocactus July 2015, September 2011, November 2009, April 2008 & 2007

Ferocactus is medium sized genus, with about 40 members and centered in Mexico, with a few species native to California and the Southwest, and a few to Guatemala.

With age, Ferocactus generally get to be very large plants, particularly when grown in the ground. Fortunately, they are fairly slow growers and when grown in pots, they will stay at a comfortable size for many years. Although there are only about 40 species, many of them are fairly variable, with widely varying spine lengths, shapes, textures and colors, depending on the specific locality.

Ferocactus are easily grown, and most are perfectly happy outdoors without protection year round in Southern California. A normal well draining potting mix will do well. They need sun to bring out the colors and textures of the spines.

Ferocactus are easily raised from seed. Planting is most successful when done in April or May. The seedlings grow slowly at first, but soon take off. There are several advantages to growing Ferocactus from seed. The first is that the selection of type localities and spine variations is far greater than you will ever see at a plant show or sale. The second and most important is that you get to grow the plant through its awkward juvenile growth. During the second year Ferocactus spines grow completely out of proportion to the Ferocactus body. A Ferocactus that will eventually be a foot in diameter, and 4 feet tall with 3 or four inch spines, will have as a seedling a body less than an inch in diameter, with spines an inch or more long.

Some of my favorite species include:
Ferocactus chrysacanthus from Baja California has dense golden spines. It becomes a spectacular species when it grows to about 8 inches in diameter. It will eventually grow to 3 feet tall.

Ferocactus emoryi is endemic to Arizona and Sonora Mexico, and shown below has long red spines that can vary from straight to hooked.

Ferocactus wislizenii, another Baja species has flat spines. It grows more in the winter than the summer.
Lastly, we should mention Ferocactus glaucescens a stunning plant with prominent golden yellow spines and a glaucous blue body. This Ferocactus can be found in Hildago Mexico in the limestone hills.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Ferocactus glaucescens, Ferocactus wislizenii, Ferocactus chrysacanthus,
Ferocactus reppenhagenii, Ferocactus latispinus v spiralis, Ferocactus emoryi
The New Cactus Lexicon, David Hunt
Tom Glavich, January 2002
 Edited by Steve Frieze, September 2011

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Ficus & Ficus caudiciform - September 2013, June 2009, April 2008 & 2007, September 2006

The genus Ficus includes a broad groups of plants that includes edible figs and a variety of houseplants. Many species are succulent in nature and have a tendency to form a basal caudex.
Two of the more prominent succulent species are Ficus petiolaris (including F. palmeri and F. brandegeei) from Mexico, and F. vasta from east  Africa and Arabia.

The succulent species of Ficus are sometimes called rock figs because they are seen in habitat growing on rocky cliffs or rock outcroppings. Under these conditions the will generate a complex root systems as the roots work their way to the soil. They make excellent rock succulent bonsai specimens.

Water your Ficus specimen throughout the year especially in the growing season. As with most succulent plants, use a well drained soil mix. The more room a ficus has to grow the faster it will attain a mature status. Propagation of Ficus is mostly from seeds.
M. & G. Irish, Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants
U. Eggli ed. Monocotyledons. Dicoledons
Tom Glavich July 2005 
Edited by Steven Frieze, 2009

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Fockea - August 2014, October 2007

The Apocynaceae is one of the largest of all plant families, with familiar plants such as Milkweed, Plumeria, and Oleanders. People may also recognize the name Asclepiadaceae, which is an old name for some members of the group. It is very popular with succulent enthusiasts as the family has hundreds succulent species including trees, shrubs, caudiciform vines, and even cactus like- plants. Almost every succulent enthusiast will have at least one member of the family in their collection, whether it be a Pachypodium, Adenium, Stapeliad, or Southern African tuberous caudiciform Apocynaceae, specifically the genera Fockea.

Fockea is probably the most commonly cultivated genera of the three, with F. edulis found in the collections of most caudiciform succulent enthusiasts. All six species in the genus form a thick tuberous root that is normally buried below the soil in nature, but is commonly raised in cultivation since it is the most distinctive feature of the plants. The upper part of the plant is a vine. Much of the variation between species is in regards to leaf shape, with some species having short oval leaves, some having very narrow almost linear leaves, and others having very wavy leaves. These wavy, or undulate, leaves are most prominent in Fockea capensis, and plant commonly but incorrectly grown in cultivation as F. crispa. In other words, there is no F. crispa, and if you have a plant named that please change your label to F. capensis!

Cultivation for the most commonly grown, South African, species of these genera is fairly easy. Treat as a summer growing succulent that doesn't like to dry out completely. Most plants will go dormant or semi-dormant in the winter and shouldn't be watered as often, though they seem fairly tolerant of our wet winters if the soil is well drained. The tubers/caudex grow the fastest when buried, so it is advantageous to grow them that way for several years before raising them.
-- Kyle Williams
Photo in Cactus Chronicle:
Fockea edulis

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Fouquieria March 2018, September 2014, May 2007

Fouquieria is one of the most distinctive and famous genera of (non-cacti) succulents from Mexico, with one species widespread in the southwestern US and one species reaching into Guatemala. It consists of 11 species and is the only genus it its family, the Fouquieriaceae. All species are woody and covered in spines, with most being pachycaulous shrubs, though some species appear as typical xeric shrubs and at least one species is a tree. Flowers are tubular and orange, red, or white in color. Unlike cacti the spines of Fouquieria do not form immediately on new growth. Instead they form the petiole, or stalk, of the leaf. Once the green part of the leaf falls off the petiole hardens into a sharp spine. These leaves form readily after rains and drop off just as readily when the soil dries out. This allows the plant to maximize photosynthesis during good conditions, but conserve water once drought threatens. 

The only American species is the Ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens, a large shrub with long, straight, very upright branches. This is a very widespread species native from California to Texas and through much of northern Mexico. While not really a pachycaul, its distinctive open, upright shape and cold tolerance (down to the single digits!) makes it popular to grow in arid regions. The orange-red flowers are magnets for hummingbirds. 

Easily the most unusual species in the genus, if not all woody succulents, is F. columnaris, the Boojum Tree. This is one of the most characteristic plants of central Baja California (it also grows in a small area of Sonora), and anyone traveling through the region it grows can't miss these bizarre "Dr. Seuss" plants. They grow to 50 feet or more in height and have few large branches, but the ones it does have often bend and twist into bizarre shapes that look like they come from an alien world! The plant is so distinctive that it was once placed in its own genus, Idria, though that designation is considered incorrect by botanists as it clearly belongs with other Fouquieria. Plants are very fond of water during the growing season and can be fast growing, though some people have problems with them in an especially wet winter when it doesn't want much moisture. Other species such as Fouquieria purpusii and F. macdougalii can be grown as pachycauls in a pot, forming beautiful specimens in time. 

The Fouquieriaceae is unusual for a succulent/pachycaul family in being quite distantly related to any other succulent families. Its closest relatives (Polemoniaceae) are small herbs that frequently grow in xeric regions, but aren't succulent, while most of the other families it is related to are commonly found in the tropics. It does share many similarities with the totally unrelated Didiereaceae, a small Madagascan family also popular with succulent enthusiasts (e.g. Allauaudia and Didierea). These families are completely unrelated, yet both have evolved into similar looking spiny shrubs with ephemeral leaves that grow in very similar desert and dry scrubland habitats. This is a case of convergent evolution, which is the evolution of organisms that look very similar not because of relationship, but because they were subjected to similar climates and other conditions. The same phenomenon can be seen between cacti and succulent Euphorbia.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle --
Fouquieria columnaris, Fouquieria diguetii flowers, Fouquieria splendens

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Frailea - January 2018 & 2016, November 2012, June 2011

The genus Frailea is endemic to South America and can be found in Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. They are typically attractive small globose plants that don't exceed two inches in diameter. This genus can be a solitary grower or form cluster depending on the species. Frailea were named from a Spaniard, Manuel Fraile, who spent numerous years maintaining the U.S, Department of Agriculture cactus collection. The spines on Frailea are short and feeble compared to other members of the cactucea family. Frailea often produce a yellow flower which can be larger than the body of the plant itself. They bloom during the heat of the day for just a few hours before they retreat. Frailea are known as cleistogamous plants meaning that the flower often times will not emerge from the plant body and will actually self- pollinate inside the specimen.

Photos in Cactus Chronicle:
Frailea phaeodisca from south of Pedras Altas country side
Frailea castanea, Frailea mammifera
Tom Glavich, February 2002 
Edited by Steve Frieze, June 2011

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