Cactus Food on Your Breakfast Table

Everybody knows that cactuses are prickly. However, the fact that they are also an important source of food is far less popular. Stems, fruits and seeds of cactus have been have been More »


Psychedelic Cactus Adventure

We are human beings and, as the Eden’s incident proves it, it’s typical for all of us to cherish a desire for something forbidden and adventurous within. How about growing a plant More »


Mountain cacti

Have you ever been to or have you ever seen the pictures of the Andes or the Cordilleras? These are the places of such cactus types as astrophytum, cleistocactus, echinopsis, lobivia, notocactus, More »


Did you know these prickly things?

We all got used to cactuses as original and beautiful houseplants. So when we hear the word “cactus” we usually think of those natty prickly green things in small pots on our More »


Taking care of saguaro cactus

When you hear the word “saguaro” you probably imagine a large, tree-sized cactus with a mighty ribbed stalk that grows in the Caribbee coastwise. I also once thought that all representatives of More »

Category Archives: Types of Cactus

Seashore cacti

Here belong such cactus species as melocactus, copiapoa and some others. This time I’m going to tell you about one of them.

Types of cactus: melocactus matanzanusGrowing just by the sea, very close to the surfs, such types of cactus as melocacti are sometimes washed and taken away by the water. You can find them along warm coast of Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Cuba, but most of these cactus types grow on the islands of West Indies. One legend says that the first melocacti come exactly from those places. Caught from the sea by sailors, they quickly spread in Europe.

As a matter of fact, melocactus was one of the first cacti got to Europe and described in botanical books.

The roots of seashore cacti extend far under the surface of sand ground to gather more fresh rainwater. All year long these cacti need warmth (about 20°C) and humid air; therefore it’s extremely difficult to grow them as houseplants. They prefer mainly sand soil with an admixture of loam and humus, and they can’t bear alkalic soil.

Rainforest cacti

Types of cactus: EpiphyllumHave you ever heard about such cactus types as epiphyllum, rhipsalis or schlumbergera? Certainly, you did. These epiphytic cacti of rainforests grow in moist and sultry woods on forks of branches, in hollows and on stubs. They settle on leaf humus, so their roots are short, but very branchy and clutch at any crack or a ledge on a tree bark. These cactus plants grow all year long, because there are no seasons of droughts and colds in the rainforests.

Thick leaves always cover these types of cactus from the sun, causing shading, that’s why they don’t need to have such means of protection against overheat of the stalk like a thick skin, a wax bloom or fuzz.

Epiphytic cactus types grow in damp atmosphere and they have no need at all to save water. They absorb it from the moist air around thanks to a bulk of stomae on their wide stalks. You can always recognize these cactus types: their stalks consist of many thin sprouts, and they look like dendritic leaf-shaped plates. They are bare and unprotected and need warmth and moisture the whole year round. Following the advice of many cactus specialists I’ve placed my schlumbergera bridgesii (Christmas cactus) in the aquarium covered by glass.

What are the types of cactus?

I began to search for the answer to this question in the books by well-known and experienced cactus specialists. But very soon I realized that I didn’t have even basic knowledge that could help me understand and follow valuable pieces of advice and instructions of venerable authors. And it is evident that knowing so little about the subject matter it is extremely difficult to write a good guide for cactus beginners.

Lobivia Hamatacanta For example, one book said that epiphytic cacti (growing on trees) couldn’t bear lower temperature and overdry conditions. But I had several Selenicereus cactuses, that were typical epiphytes, which could stand cold and dry wintering without much trouble. Why? I did not understand.

Another book advised not to subject cacti “originating from tropical forests of Brazil” to difficulties of severe wintering. I had some cactuses which native land was Brazil, but I did not know whether they were tropical or not.

The third author warned against overdrying of “tillered wood cactuses”, but some pages on he advised to keep Chamaecereus “as chilly as possible” during wintering. But as far as I know this type of cactus is both wood and tillered! Where should I search for the keys to all these riddles?

The first gleams of understanding came unexpectedly. Some friends of mine gave me several photos of cactuses that they had by chance and didn’t need anymore. Somebody of them advised me for fun to arrange a photo album of “thorny friends”, and this idea turned to be very fruitful. I picked more and more photos, but I pasted them not in the album, but on separate sheets of dense paper where I could also write down everything, that I learned about this or that cactus: the name, the description, data on culture and, of course, the native land.

And when I collected several hundreds of these cards, I often went through them and it served me right: soon I could those cacti? which suffered from dry cold. Some names were similar, some were different, but the outward similarity of certain cactus species was evident. Yes, they all were epiphytes and they all tillered. The majority of them really originated from Brazil, though for the some of them the native land was Jamaica, West Indies and even Mexico.

But the most surprising fact was that despite different names and places of origin all these tillered epiphytes had one common feature – they all had bare stalks. Their bright green thin skin was not protected by neither hairs, nor thorns, nor grey wax film. Only several tiny and thin seti. They all looked rather defenseless in comparison with other cactus species.

And this very defenselessness turned out to be the key to the riddle that I could not solve. I understood why this feature was developed – because of tropical forest conditions.

Three cactus subfamilies

In order to cope with this enormous variety of cactus types, the family Cactaceae, the typical features of which I’ve considered in the What’s Cactus? section, is devided into three subfamilies.

The first cactus subfamily is called Pereskioideae. It comprises cacti with right and completely developed leaves. These cacti are very few, and the subfamily Pereskioideae is the smallest. Only 26 cactus species are included in it.

The second subfamily is Opuntioideae. It unites about 400 species that have two distinctive features: first, they all have rudimentary triangular or subulate leaflets; second, on the top of their arealas there are bunches of thin, jagged setas named glochidia. They keep on the stem very poorly are can be separated from it at the slightest touch, clinging to hands and clothes. So in order to prevent troubles, it is necessary to remember about it while caring for prickly pear cactus.All the other cacti, that is more than 2000 species, belong to the third subfamily Cactoideae. The majority of popular cacti are Cactoideae. Their distinctive features are: the absence of any leaves on the stem and the absense of glochidia on areolas.