Cactus of the season

Mammillaria bombycina is a fine cactus to grow at home. Not only is it good-looking, as it has interesting spination, but also it easily grows into beautiful clumps. And it is one of the less finicky Mammillarias, putting up with quite a range of light and water, though like others of its genus, not much water in the winter. More to the point for this season, it blooms in the winter! (As well as usually spring and summer.) This photo was taken in December, and as this is written in January, the plant is still blooming away. The flowers are small but very colourful, and because usually there are many flowers blooming at once, the plant is a great antidote to the monochromatic outdoors. It is such a popular cactus that, unfortunately, collectors have nearly wiped it out in its wild homeland of west-Central Mexico. According to Wikipedia, it is considered endangered in the wild.*

*From Cereusly Speaking, January 2017

Cacti for connoisseurs by Colin Bundred

(A look back: this is from the June 2012 Cereusly Speaking.)
Cleistocactus strausii: Not an uncommon plant, but when well grown, an uncommonly handsome specimen, fully justifying its common name of the “Silver Torch Cactus.” It’s a plant of the high mountains of northern Argentina and southern Bolivia. It grows easily from seed and
can quickly reach its mature height of 7-8 ft. when re-potted on a regular basis. It branches profusely from the base, forming imposing clumps in less than ten years. Its size can be restricted by keeping it somewhat potbound, which does nothing to take away the attractiveness of the plant. It’s a heavy bloomer from a relatively young age; the red 2”-3″ long tubular flowers are a delight against the shining silvery body of the plant.
The plant shown is 6 years old from seed, it’s 22″ tall, in a 9″ pot.


Eastern Washington cactus trip May 14-15, 2016

by Bernice van de Voort

Fred and I were among about 25 cactus fanciers from five societies in Canada and the U.S., doing a mid-May tour of eastern Washington. The trip was organized by Karen Summers, Shoreline, WA. We met at Dixie Dringham’s place in Rock Island, WA. Her adobe-style home is perched high up overlooking Rock Island and appropriately named “Rancho con muchos nopales” (“with many prickly pears”). She has a large desert property, which she has left basically to wild flowers, grasses and with Washington’s own yucca bacata, cylindropuntia imbricata cholla, and beaver tail opuntia basilaris. People from around bring her road kill and the bones and skeletons are dispersed all over the property, making for an interesting “Death Valley” landscape. But the highlight of the visit was her flowering spineless Echinocereus triglochidiatus (photo above). Folks stood around it in amazement.

Pediocactus nigrispinus in bloom

Pediocactus nigrispinus in bloom



Dixie led us to an incredibly beautiful Washington State Wild Life area to look for the uncommon Pediocactus nigrispinus hedgehog cactus. We found one on an escarpment overlooking the Columbia River (47.20023, -119.98767), Road 9 NW and Road U near Quincy, WA. Sadly, it had already flowered at the beginning of May, however Dixie provided us with a photo of the species in bloom.

P. nigrispinus can be found in thin, rocky soil on ridge tops at elevations of 1000-4000 feet, in singles or clusters, with globe-like stems that may be flattened on the top. Although they are documented to measure up to 4 3/4 inches, we found some to be much taller at 6-8” and up to 6” across. We were surprised by that size in such a northern state. An additional bonus was a member of the beautiful Lewisia genus, regionally endemic and found in the same rocky areas.

Ron McKitricks cholla

Ron McKitricks cholla

Ron McKitrick’s house in Yakima has a large back yard, which he has turned into a cactus botanical garden. Everything seems to grow. You really do not expect to see Joshua trees in Washington State, but they grow in Ron’s backyard, as does an agave, in flower when we were there.  He specializes in cristata forms, produced by trimming every week.  A few lucky people went home with cuts of flowering Echinocereus triglochidiatus. A magnificent cholla graces the corner of his house.

Mitch Cameron's yard

Mitch Cameron’s yard

Our last visit was to Mitch Cameron’s house in Yakima, a show home, nicely landscaped by Ron McKitrick with succulents and cactus . The emphasis was on individual plants, in a simulated desert setting that complements the modern architecture. In this setting, you really did not feel you were in Washington State but rather in an Arizona-like environment.

We finished our Washington RV trip with a quick visit to the Yakima Arboretum and the cactus patch there. Overall, we were impressed at what can grow cactus-wise in eastern Washington.
(Editor’s note: sorry we haven’t room for all the photos Bernice took during the trip!  An extended version of this article was first published in Cereusly Speaking, June 2016)

Seed sources for prickly plants

As we look toward spring and visit garden centres to sigh about tomato seeds and whatnot, this might be a good time to think about cactus and succulent seeds too. Here are some sources. Thank you to our members Rene and Doug for help compiling this list.

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Cacti or cactuses?

What is the plural of cactus? Well, most people would say “cacti”, using the plural form of such Latin words. But wait, is it a Latin word? Cactus is actually from the Greek kaktos, the prickly cardoon plant.(An interesting derivation, given that the Greeks never saw a cactus, which is endemic to the Americas and so the Greeks, and Romans, had to wait many hundreds of years until Columbus and his ilk got to the New World.)

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My journey to winter-hardy cacti

Developing my collection of winter-hardy cacti has taken many turns and much patience. My advice is to keep trying and never give up!

I started by raising a number of rock garden plants from seed for my little garden. In 1965, I heard about Reader Rock Garden in Calgary, home of more than 2,000 rock and alpine plants.

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