cactus-food

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 »

fear-and-loathing-cactus

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-big

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 »

Prickly-pear-cactus

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 »

saguaro-cactus

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 »

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 that is forbidden almost in all countries of the world… at home? Sound adventurous enough? And indeed, there are people who have valour to keep the psychoactive cactus Peyote on their windowsills.

Peyote, also known as Lophophora williamsii, is a small cactus with no spines that grows mainly in south-eastern Mexico and southern Texas. Because of its strong psychoactive effect, Peyot has a long history of ritual, religious and magical use by Native Indians for whom, we must say, growing hallucinogenic cacti has been common since time immemorial and this type of household activity has gained a strong cultural basis.

The ancient Aztec tribes began cultivating this psychedelic cactus centuries ago. Aztec priests used to chew reach the state when they could unfold a more subtle matter. Such psychedelic trips were usually accompanied with whispering of prayers and spells, which gradually culminated in some illegible mutter similar to baby talk. It was believed that the use of the peyote cactus can lead to direct connection with the gods. During these cactus rituals ancient Indians could see faces of the gods and get in contact with spirits of the dead. Needles to say that even nowadays there are people (and they are not only Native Americans) who believe in the miraculous effect of peyote and use it for the same purpose.

In ancient times there was no necessity to go to witches and fortune tellers to know ones future. It was enough just to shove a piece of Peyote or San Pedro cactus, or hallucinogenic mushrooms in one’s mouth and the future could be seen in full view. A lot of natives often went mad being under the influence of psychotropic cacti and hallucinogenic mushrooms. They were haunted by morbid visions of strange people coming from the outside to eradicate their culture and to build Silicon Valley and Hollywood on its bones. And those strangers were probably bloodthirsty Spaniards and those who followed.

Сactus Peyote contains psychotropic substance mescaline, a potent natural hallucinogen that may lead to psychological dependence after long use and bring harm to the brain and the rest of the nervous system. That is why peyote is forbidden almost everywhere in the world. So all fans of entheogens and ethnobotany who want to taste the fruit forbidden and take an adventure should be warned: it’s gonna be a long one.

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, oreocereus, rebutia and others. Naked, forbidding rocks rise above stony gorges, and huge woolly blooming cereuses grow on these rocky walls. It seems incredible, as you can never tell what they cling to and how they survive: at a daytime they are scorched by the bright and merciless sun, at night they freeze in the cold mountain air. These types of cactus would die, if they had no means of protection as attire of fuzz, prickles and setae. The dense woolly cover protects the green stalk from sunburns and supercooling.

Types of cactus: Rebutia sp. uebelmannMountain cacti – pillar-shaped oreocereus and spherical lobivia – suffer from the lack of the sunlight even more than desert cacti. They quickly start “to grow bald”, losing dense prickles and fuzz. They can frequently perish from rotting of the stalk. Damp humus soil is especially baneful for these types of cactus. The dwarf rebutia growing on mountain meadows and in intermountain troughs endures it much better. Many of these cactuses are dressed in a proofing of white or golden setae.

If you keep these cactus types dry and cold (3-5 °) in winter and give them enough sunlight in summer, they will excellently grow and blossom already at the age of two years.

Desert cacti

Speaking about desert cactus species we can name the following: ariocarpus, carnegiea, cephalocereus, cephaloceus, echinocactus, ferocactus, opuntia, and some others.

Types of cactus: Echinocereus subirnemisWhen we hear the word “desert” we usually imagine Sahara or Kara-Kum with their scorching sand-dunes devoid of any vegetation. But the soil of stony deserts of Central and South America is very rich in all necessary salts for cacti. Though its contains very little amount of humus, water dissolves salts and the plant can absorb them.

But if rains are extremely rare here, where does water comes from? Plentiful dews, falling at night and flowing down between ribs of cacti, the night fogs accumulating on prickly stalks – this is a poor water diet of desert types of cactus growing in Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador.

Roots of many cacti of these places are radish-shaped and are capable to save water within, or ramify widely near the surface. To reduce moisture evaporation, cacti aspire to curtail the area of the stalk surface. That’s why they have either spherical or a short cylindrical form.

Desert cactus types are not afraid of burning sun: some of them have thick and dense thin skin, which becomes flat and “hides” in the ground for the period of droughts; some have high sharp ribs causing shade; others are covered with dense prickles or setae, looking like a brush.

For their correct development desert types of cactus require much sun, soil containing little humus and careful watering. They can easily die because of water stagnation in the ground even during summer heat.

Savanna cacti

Types of cactus: Mammillaria microcheliaThe word savanna usually means vast territories of grass plains, covered with herbage, isolated islets of undersized trees and bushes. Its distinctive features are a long dry period without rain falling on winter and spring months, and plentiful rains and thunderstorms in summertime. Fluctuations in temperature reach 20 °C and more.

Such climate is considered to be the most favorable for cactus types growing on these plains. The most popular of them are coryphanta and mammillaria. These types of cactus excellently bear dry and cool winter and need a lot of warmth, sun and watering in summer, but they are afraid of water stagnation near their roots. The soil for these cacti should contain less humus, than the soil for forest cactus species, and it should have an admixture of loam.

By the way, the majority of savanna cacti, especially undersized ones like mammillaria, grow well in penumbra. In natural conditions they hide from the sun in thick grass.

Forest Saguaros

There’s such a popular belief that all forest cactus types are bare and defenseless. But it’s far from being true. There is a whole group of cacti named Hylocereinae or forest saguaros, which texture differs under the influence of life conditions. Here belong such cactus types as aporocactus, hylocereus, celenicereus, chamaecereus.

Types of cactus: Chamaecereus silvestriiForest saguaros have thin and flexible creeping stalks and air roots on them, which deliver additional moisture from the air. As a rule, saguaros grow close to the edges of the forest, where there is more light and the air circulates freely between the trees. In case of drought their stalks wrinkle, but with the first rain they become juicy and green again. That’s why these types of cactus belong to another group of cacti – to xerophytes. This group is much bigger than the group of epiphytes, and includes various species from different areas of habitation.

Hylocereinae already have the means of protection from the excessive water evaporation or overheat of the stalk. For example, grey wax bloom and short but strong thorns of celenicereus, a countless number of small setaceous barbs of aporocactus and chamaecereus, etc.