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Plant of the Month


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PLANT OF THE MONTH

Along with other articles, columns and club updates, each monthly issue of the Henry Shaw Cactus Digest includes an article or two on members' favorite types of cacti or succulents. Follow the links below this month's offering(s) to enjoy previous Plants of the Month.

July 2005 -- Sulcorebutia

By Chris Deem
 
High in the Andes of southwestern Bolivia, a small Cantua buxifolia, the sacred flowering bush of the Incas, stands like a sentinel, in silence.
 
The sunlight in the high mountains intensifies the colors of the various small, globular cacti in bloom. The air is so still you can hear a small hummingbird as it hovers over the red and yellow flower of a Sulcorebutia canigueralii.
 
There is a variety of Sulcorebutia known as polymorpha, which means "many forms." Polymorpha is also a good description of sulcorebutias.
 
Most sulcorebutias, because of their Andean origins, are frost-hardy, and many have tuberous taproots. Many are clustering species, but some remain solitary. The spine colors are also variable -- yellow, reddish-brown and white. Many are comblike, having long, stretched areoles, but some are not. The flowers also vary greatly, from bicolor to shocking pink, red, magenta or even pale yellow.
 
Many sulcorebutias are easy to care for. In the growing season, they like sunny places with high air humidity. Their soil should be slightly acidic and watered frequently. In the winter, they like a cold, dry rest.
 
One species, Sulcorebutia rauschii, presents more of a challenge to growers than the rest. It is a small, clumping species with cylindrical heads that are, at most, one inch tall. The plant bodies can be grayish-green or purple. Their spines are usually black, but can occasionally be the color of gold. The flowers can be a deep purple or, just as attractive, a magenta pink.

Photo

July 2005 -- Cristates, Monstroses, Variegates

By Pam Schnebelen
 
Cristate and Monstrose Plants
Non-branching plants have only one growth point -- the apex or apical meristem. In braching plants, each branch has its own growth point. Hormones produced at the growth points control the growing patterns and final shapes of the plants.
 
In a cristate (crested) plant, the apical point multiplies and elongates horizontally to become a fan or sprawl of growth points. In a monstrose plant, atypical growth occurs all over the plant, creating odd, bumpy, twisty or gnarly growth.
 
Cristate and monstrose forms occur normally in nature, but only rarely. Frequently, they are much more visually interesting than the typical plants. As you would expect, collectors of these oddities have pushed their prices much higher than the normal forms of the same species.
 
Variegates
Plants are green because they have chlorophyll. They use chlorophyll to capture the sun's energy to produce the food that allows them to grow.
 
Occasionally, a seed germinates to produce a plant that does not distribute chlorophyll evenly across its leaf and skin surfaces. Green striping and spotting then occur. In the areas without chlorophyll, other pigments determine the plant's color. Most variegates are white and yellow, but oranges and reds are also seen.
 
As with the cristates and monstroses, there are collectors who specialize in variegated plants. To feed that market, propagators sow thousands of seeds, hoping to get a single new variegated plant. Fortunately, once the seedling is established, it can be propagated vegetatively.
 
Note: In researching this article, I found an interesting e-zine -- Cultivar -- at http://www.lapshin.org/cultivar. It has photos and articles on unusual forms of cacti and other succulents.
 
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