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

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.

How to place different types of cactus plants

There’s no other houseplant like cactus that needs such a sharp distinction between winter and summer placing. In summer your cacti have to grow intensively, but in winter it happens quite on the contrary, and you need to stop their growth to avoid deformed winter increase and exhaustion.

In their homeland different types of cactus plants have a natural period of rest during summer draughts and with the first rains they start growing again. But we have to establish simulated conditions of rest in wintertime and in late autumn, when cactus plants are short of light for their normal growth. First of all, it’s necessary to reduce watering gradually, just to prevent drying up and withering of roots. Second of all, you should lower temperature on windowsills to 5-10 °C.The second condition is a must, because if you keep cactus dry by usual room temperature, its stalk will go on evaporating water, the plant will fade without watering and won’t rest. Low temperature slows down its breathing and metabolism process. If you organize wintering for cactus properly, your prickly friend won’t get dry. It will grow stout and ripen.

The easiest way to low down temperature on the windowsill is to set a light glass frame on its edge. It will protect your cactus from the heating battery. Thermometer is essential to control temperature during all winter. If it shows 5 °C, it’s better not to risk and to warm your window-frames with a woolen blanket, but not on any account you should remove the glass frame until central heating is cut off.

The same placing is suitable for spring and autumn, but without a frame. Cacti can hardly stand abrupt changes of watering and placing. That’s why the general rule in cactus care is a graduality in condition changing.

In summer cactuses need maximum of fresh air and sun. Fresh air comes first for a reason: only those collectors achieve proper growth, good fuzzing and flowering of their prickly friends, who keep their cacti in the open air twenty four hours a day during the whole summer. If you have no balcony, you can keep your cactus types on weatherboards of your windows or in boxes strongly fixed on the outer end. But in that case you will have to protect your cactus plants from the rain, dust and wind. I’ve made a polyethylene film cap, letting ultra-violet rays pass through. So now my cacti have beautiful big thorns, which they would have never developed under a glass cover. I also advice you to keep and carry all your cactus pots on a tray. It is safe and convenient.

Did you know these prickly things?

Say hi to your prickly friend!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 windowsills. They please our eyes and bring warmth into our homes. But apart from aesthetic pleasure that our prickly friends give us, they also play a great role in making people’s life easier and more interesting.

Cactuses are widely used in industry of several countries. They serve as the source for getting vitamins and hormones. They are the essential element in production of some deodorants, wines, liqueurs, soap, etc. Their waste products are used to feed cattle and poultry. Certain types of cactus plants bear so big, juicy and fragrant fruits that people eat them raw, jam and stew them, make cactus jelly.  Sometimes they are put in wine for aroma and even added to meat stew.  Cooked or baked Neowerdermannia is considered to be a special dish in Bolivia and Paraguay.

Some types of Melocactus and Echinocactus are eaten candied. Stalks are hulled of thorns and rinded, sliced and cooked in cane-sugar syrup.

Prickly pear cactus is used to breed such aphids as Coccus cacti and Opuntia cochinellifera, dried bodies of which were used to produce cochineal dye. Cochineal was once highly valued, and until chemical dyestuff finally penetrated the market there were a lot of aphid breeding farms.

Mexican Indians use prickly pear cactus as a remedy for certain diseases. They boil the stalk and roots to make poultices, dry and pulverize it for making splints to treat fractures. Roots of prickly pear have diuretic action and its juice are sometimes used to cure hepatitis.

Medical properties of different types of Cereus, Echinocactus and Ariocarpus are well known. For example, juice of Selenicereus grandiflours is used in homoeopathic, as well as in allopathic treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

Certain cactus species have antibacterial action. One of them is Lophophora that is remarkably rich in alkaloids. Indian tribes always knew about its strong and manifold action. Some tribes use it as an antidote for snake and scorpion bites, other – as a treatment for neuralgic pain and spasms. Lophophora also has a stimulating effect, and many tribes take it in before long trips and festivities; Lophophora helps to dance all night long without getting tired. In ancient times Indian warriors drank Lophophora beverage before the battle. Remarkable enough is the fact that it also helps in case of strong crapulence.

At present American Indians use Lophophora mainly as a ritual intoxicant plant. It causes visual and aural hallucinations and sharpens senses. Being under its influence a man feels all-powerful and doesn’t sense any need in food and drink. For some tribes Lophophora is the object of worship. A great many traditions and superstitions center around this cactus plant. For example, it is necessary to greet Lophophora when you come across it, otherwise, it may take offence and avenge somehow. It is also believed that Lophophora won’t let itself to a man with guilty conscience and restless soul.

So now look again at your prickly ones and say hi to them! Learn them, listen to them, love them!

How I began to collect cacti

Pediocactus simpsonii (a difficult North-American echinocactus)As it always happens in life, just when you cease to believe in luck it comes to you out of the blue. It came to me from my best friend, a charming and incredibly fussy woman, always having something new and interesting in reserve. During one of our meetings she spoke about the guitar she bought and her first attemts to play it. Naturally my first question was about her progress as a guitar player. But she only waved away and said that there are much more interesting things, for example, cactuses. “I collect cacti. Do you know what a cactus is?” she asked.I was sure I knew and I told her confidently everything I heard about the subject matter: “Well, it is something… prickly… and round?” And then she told me that cacti are not necessarily round, they also can be long and flat and even like a “cat’s tail”. I listened to her with bated breath. Eventually I went to look at her cactus collection the same evening.

Coming back home and looking at the streets in twilight I tried to contemplate my impressions. Certainly, I saw different cacti before. But it was for the first time that I could see such a great variety of them so near and in the same place. I liked them very much as they reminded me of something dear and lovely that I could not remember.

At that moment I caught the contour of the trees standing on the twilight streets and understood everything. They reminded me of children’s drawings, so simple, laconic and expressive at the same time.

A week later I called my friend and told her that I also wanted to collect cacti and asked her what my first steps should be.

“First of all buy tweezers to pull thorns out and then come to me with a big basket – I will give you my collection.” she said.  “They have bothered me. I’m pricked like a pillow for pins, and they die for some reason. And besides, I have a crab that I’m much more fond of now. Her name is Lisa and she is horribly angry! I keep her in the jar with sea-water. So funny to look how she swallows up worms!”

Thus I became the owner of a pretty large cactus collection. I washed and cleaned my cactuses, rearranged and replaced them. I asked all my acquaintances and friends whether they know people who have cactuses, and whether it is impossible to get a cutting or a shoot for me.

So I became a recruit in the numerous army of cactus collectors.