Parodia (2012)

PhotoBy Barb Rengers (November 2012)

Parodia is a genus of cactus in the family Cactoideae, tribe Notocacteae. The plants range from Argentina and Uruguay to Paraguay and Brazil, and were named after the Argentine botanist Lorenzo Raimundo Parodia.

In the 1980s, the International Cactaceae Systematics Group included Brasilicactus, Brasiliparodia, Eriocactus, Notocactus and Wigginsia with Parodia. This is still controversial, and most hobbyists prefer to keep the genus Notocactus separate. To see just how confused this genus has been, look in Edward Anderson’s book The Cactus Family and notice the long list of synonyms for most species.

Parodias are a group of small, mostly globose cacti. They have bright spines, some of which are hooked, and their areoles are often covered with dense, white wool. Parodia flowers are very colorful, usually yellow, orange or red. The flowers appear at the crown of the plant, and while younger plants do flower, on older plants the blooms survive for several days.

Generally, parodias are not difficult to grow. The fibrous-rooted species from Brazil require a bit richer soil, which can be supplied by adding humus. The species with stronger root systems need a more mineral mix.

In order to develop their beautiful spines, they need plenty of light, but do not like excessive heat. Give them morning sun, but shade from hot afternoon sun. I find this bright light, no excessive heat combination difficult to provide in the state of Missouri.

Moisture requirements are somewhat tricky, too. Parodias actually like more water than most cactus. In summer, their soil needs to be somewhat continually moist and never dry for very long periods. In the winter, cut back, but do not let soil completely dry out. But be aware they can loose their roots and rot if too cold and wet during winter months.

Here are a few of the readily available and easy-to-grow parodias you may have in your collection:

P. magnifica – lemon-yellow flowers for a few weeks in spring.
P. haselbergii – scarlet flowers in spring for as long as a month.
P. leninghausii – yellow flowers in summer. At the October meeting, Chris and Doug Deem brought in a beautiful Parodia leninghausii for an attendance prize. I remember reading somewhere that this species’ growing tip will always tilt toward the sun.

The following are a bit difficult to grow:

P. mutabilis – yellow or yellow-red flowers.
P. nivosa – red to orange flowers.
P sanguiniflora – red flowers.

The Ultimate Book of Cacti & Succulents – Miles Anderson
The Cactus Family – Edward Anderson
The Encyclopedia of Cacti – Cullmann, Goltz and Groner