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 »

Tag Archives: cactus types

Top 10 Amazing Facts About Cactus

Here is the list of top 10 amazing facts about cactus.

Fact 1: Sold for $120,000. Some years ago a unique collection of cacti was sold at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. The starting price of the item was $35,000, but the price rose up to $120,000 during the bidding. The lucky winner was one of the owners of Daimler-Benz (currently Daimler AG), a German automobile manufacturer.

Fact 2: More than 2,500 cactus species. In the ancient Hellas any prickly plant, such as burdock or artichoke, was called cactus. The taxonomic classification of plants was not developed yet. And only in the XVIII century the famous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus first used the word ‘cactus’ to describe a particular genus of plants. Nowadays more than 2,500 cactus species are distinguished.

Fact 3: Champ in endurance. With the air temperature of 37°С a cactus can reach the temperature of 52°С. A cactus can grow up to 15 meters and can stay alive for a long time even without its roots. Luther Burbank, а renowned horticulturist, left a cactus hanging upside down on a tree for six years for the sake of experiment. Then he successfully planted it again and the cactus continued to grow.

Fact 4: So various in size. The smallest cactus in the world is called Blossfeldia. It is so small that can be comfortably put in a teaspoon. And the world’s largest cactus is Californian giant Cereus. It resembles a chandelier by its shape and its stem can store up to 2 tons of water. The tallest cactus of this species grew up to 150 years and reached the height of 24 meters.

Fact 5: Most beautiful cactus. The flower of Cereus serpentinus is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. This cactus blooms only at night. The flower has the size of a large plate, almost 30 cm in diameter. It consists of 75 golden scales, 25 long pointed snow-white petals arranged spirally, and 600 luminous stamens. This cactus is very fastidious and the only place where it took root and now continues to grow is the cactus garden in Monte Carlo. This garden is situated on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and in some its places there are natural “bridges” made of cactuses that hang over the coasts and precipes and can serve the visitors of the garden.

Fact 6: Beware of cactus handshake. If you walk barefoot or with unprotected hands and there are cactuses nearby, you’d better think twice. Cactus experts say that a human hand can catch more than about a hundred sharp spines after an incautious “handshake” with a cactus. And those who had such an acquaintance know how painful it is to pull those spines out. The record in this respect was made in 1956 – 267 spines were stuck into the hand of an unfortunate Brazilian.

Fact 7: Australian cactus terror. But the most numerous victims of cactus sharp hospitality are Australians. Opuntia was brought to Australia from Brazil and in a short period of time got widely spread all over the continent. Soon almost all the cattle was nearly extinguished: cows ate cactuses and died suffering from sharp spines in their stomachs. Australia was saved from Opuntia by Argentine moth, a cactus pest that was dispersed from planes. There is even a monument to Argentine moth in Australia that is, in fact, the only monument ever set up to a butterfly.

Fact 8: Mexican top secret. Do you know what carmine, a unique bright red dye, is made of? By the way it was the state secret of Mexico until 1785. But now we know that it is made of cochineal insects that were once found only in this country. Mexicans used squirrel tails to sweep the insects from cactuses, then steamed and dried them to prepare the dye.

Fact 9: Most dangerous cactus. They belong to the genus Lophophora, or peyote, and their cultivation is strictly prohibited in all countries because of strong hallucinogens they contain. While converting Aztecs to Christianity the Catholic priests asked them strictly two questions: “Have you tried human flesh?” and “Have you tried peyote?” Common Aztecs were prohibited to pick peyote under death penalty. Only the Aztec priests had the right to do it.

Fact 10: Cacti are delicious. Some of them really are. For example, slices of the so called candy cactus are favorite food of Mexicans. Some cacti are perfect to make jam of. Some of them are eaten fresh. Some are stewed with meat. Some are salted and pickled. And this list seems to be endless. It’s interesting to note that in the XIX century by crossing many species of cacti breeders raised a new spineless cactus that tasted like orange.

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.