The Nursery (Part 8: First flowers)

For once there’ll be a post with less text and more images! I feel flowering is one of the best ways to see whether your plants are doing well. If they are of flowering age and their growing conditions are good all cacti will generally be happy to produce flowers. If not, they will be much more reluctant to flower – although flowering can also be induced by high levels of stress or such things as manipulating the plant’s hormones. As I mentioned in the post about fertilisers and additives, I do add a few drops of certain plant extracts with most waterings that are supposed to increase flowering, so it’s possible this may have had an effect on some of the species.

Seeing the little plants develop from seedlings to flowering plants is very rewarding and one of the best parts of the hobby. I plan on giving them about a month’s rest in December to try and induce more flowering. The oldest plants will then be about 16 months old and I think a lot more will be ready to flower at that point.

Pseudolithos mccoyi

The first of the plants I sowed in late July/early August 2013 to start flowering did so in February, approximately six months after germination. The one to start it all off was Pseudolithos mccoyi. I have no experience with this genus so I don’t know whether it usually starts flowering at a very young age. Since they began flowering in February they’ve kept it up ever since, and now 9 months later they’re still at it. I have no idea how to pollinate them. As far as I know it’s done by flies in nature (though the flowers don’t smell anything), but it doesn’t seem like any flies have visited them over the past months. I don’t know who this species was named for, but I like to think it was Star Trek’s Dr. Leonard McCoy!

Pseudolithos mccoyi starting to flower at six months old. The top dressing is crushed lava and the plants are blending in very well!

A closer look at the flowers of Pseudolithos mccoyi. This plant is 14 months old here, and it and its brethren  have been flowering non-stop for 9 months so far. The flowers are tiny at no more than  5 mm wide. Some of the P. mccoyi  (such as this one) have developed a very nice greyish bloom on the epidermis.

Turbinicarpus longispinus nom. prov.

The second species to start flowering was Turbinicarpus longispinus at 7 months old. The name is a nom. prov. (nomen provisorium) meaning a provisional name, and as far as I know has never been validly published.

It is supposed to be a synonym of T. rioverdensis ssp. paolii, which is again a synonym of T. rioverdensis according to Hunt et al. (2006), Pilbeam & Weightman (2006) and Zachar (2004). Furthermore, the same authorities place this taxon as a subspecies under Turbinicarpus schmiedickeanus as T. schmiedickeanus ssp. rioverdensis. This should then be the current name of the species.

However, if T. longispinus is indeed a synonym of T. rioverdensis ssp. paolii, then according to Donati & Zanovello (2005) it should be called T. klinkerianus ssp. schwarzii as they claim it is just a re-description of T. schwarzii which they place under T. klinkerianus. If they are correct, the name of the species according to Hunt et al. (2006), Pilbeam & Weightman (2006) and Zachar (2004) should then be T. schmiedickeanus ssp. macrochele since they place T. schwarzii under synonomy with this taxon.

So…what to think? I now have the following options depending on which authority I’d like to follow: T. longispinus nom. prov., T. rioverdensis ssp. paoliiT. rioverdensisT. schmiedickeanus var. rioverdensis, T. schmiedickeanus var. macrochele and T. klinkerianus ssp. schwarzii. A Gordian knot if ever I saw one!

I am not particularly inclined to agree with Donati & Zanovello (2005) as I think their recombinations of species and way of classifying species is a bit odd. But what exactly to call it I’m not sure. It seems to me to be similar to all of the above mentioned species. I will have to delve into the matter a bit deeper before deciding on anything, so for now they’ll stay as T. longispinus. It’s a nice plant though!

Turbinicarpus longispinus in bud at 7 months old. The spination is variable, and not all the plants have longer than usual spines. This plant is about 1,5 cm in diameter.

Detail of the flower of Turbinicarpus longispinus. The flower is approximately 2,5 cm tip to tip.
Turbinicarpus longispinus at 11 months old. It was cross pollinated and, as can be seen, the fruit has just split open revealing the seeds inside. This plant, ca. 2 cm in diameter, does not have particularly long spines.

Mammillaria roemeri

The next one out was Mammillaria roemeri at 9 months old. Originally only one plant germinated, but some months later another seedling appeared to keep the first one company. It produced just one flower and hasn’t attempted to flower again since. It is a relatively new discovery and according to Hunt et al (2006) it is likely just a neotenic (retaining juvenile characteristics into adulthood) form of Mammillaria lasiacantha. It certainly seems to be a neotenic form, though whether it is just a form of M. laiacantha I feel is too soon to say (at least for me).

Mammillaria roemeri in bud. The plant is about 2 cm in diameter.

Mammillaria roemeri with the flower wide open. It’s a very nice shade of pink with a slightly darker mid stripe. The flower is about 1,5 cm in diameter.

Adenium multiflorum

After this, Adenium multiflorum decided to go next at 12 months old. I can’t honestly say that it looks very different in appearance compared to my A. obesum or A. arabicum apart from being slightly taller and more elongated, but maybe it will in age.

Adenium multiflorum with buds. It’s about 15 cm tall.

Adenium multiflorum with lovely coloured flowers. The flowers are ca. 6 cm in diameter.

Mammillaria hernandezii


Mammillaria hernandezii was the next one out at 11 months old, and put on quite a show for about a month. About seven different plants produced flowers, though none of them produced more than one. I kept pollen in the fridge and pollinated every flower so I expect some of them will have set fruit, though it’s difficult to tell since they are cryptocarps, keeping the fruits hidden in the plant body.

The first Mammillaria hernandezii to start flowering. As can be seen there are several plants with buds. The plants are approximately 1,5-2 cm in diameter.

Close-up of Mammillaria hernandezii with flower. The colour is very nice and the camera doesn’t quite do it justice. The flowers are ca. 2 cm in diameter.

Mammillaria plumosa

At the same time Mammillaria plumosa began flowering, also at 11 months old. It’s a very pretty plant and while the flowers aren’t as spectacular as in M. hernandezii, they are nevertheless charming. Both these species usually flower late in the year from autumn to winter, so I was pleasantly surprised not just that they flowered but that they flowered in September already. A lack of sunlight is usually the cause for their lack of willingness to flower in Northern Europe, so I take it as evidence that they’re receiving sufficient and good quality light from my artificial lighting.

Mammillaria plumosa with a pretty little yellowish flower just starting to open. The plant is ca. 3 cm in diameter.

Mammillaria plumosa with the flower wide open. The flower is ca. 1 cm i diameter. It produced two more flowers before decided that was quite enough.

Euphorbia obesa

I have a grand, old and elongated lady Euphorbia obesa that has faithfully produced flowers every summer for years now but, sadly, she’s remained an old spinster. Until now that is, when a strapping young lad appeared ready to pollinate everything in sight!

The old, yet still very fertile, Euphorbia obesa with lots of seed pods!

The male Euphorbia obesa at 13 months old, ready to enjoy life. This species has male and female flowers and without one of each there’ll be no little children. The plant is ca. 3,5-4 cm in diameter.

Another female E. obesa, also 13 months old. This one has also been visited by the male pictured above and the fruit is just starting to develop.

The same E. obesa as pictured above. One seed pod is still maturing while the first one has just popped. Popped is really quite an accurate word to use because the fruits do actually pop when mature. There are three fairly big seeds in each pod and if you don’t take care to harvest at the right moment the seeds may just escape you since they can be flung quite some distance by the force of the exploding pod. In the lower part of the picture can be seen some of the remains of the pod that popped, but the seeds probably disappeared in some pot somewhere. Maybe they’ll germinate some day…

Pseudolithos cubiformis

The next one to start flowering was Pseudolithos cubiformis at 14 months old. It is a lovely plant with very interesting flowers. It does look quite like a rock and I can well imagine it must be difficult to find in habitat. The flowers smell like rotting meat in order to attract flies. I had no flies on hand, and without them I believe it is quite difficult to pollinate these plants. If anyone knows a good method to pollinate them I’d love to hear it!

Pseudolithos cubiformis with a cluster of buds on the right. The plant is ca. 4 cm in diameter. In the lower part of the picture can be seen another cluster of buds about to develop, though they haven’t developed yet.

Pseudolithos cubiformis with one flower just opening and another about to open right behind. The flower is ca. 1,5 cm in diameter and smelled like rotten meat. These two flowers are the only ones that have developed from the large cluster seen in the image above.

I must admit I have no experience with Pseudolithos from before, so I don’t really know what this is. Based on this picture I assume the species produces male and female flowers like Euphorbia obesa, though I don’t really know whether these are male or female. The flowers are very small – probably no more than a couple of millimetres in diameter. I’d love to hear any tips or tricks to get these plants to set fruit. 

Rebutia narvaecensis ‘espinosae’

Finally, the last plant to flower so far was Rebutia narvaecensis ‘espinosae’ at 14 months old. The name ‘espinosae’ was never validly published according to Pilbeam (1997), so the label should perhaps just read Rebutia narvaecensis – though according to a recent molecular phylogenetic study by Ritz et al. (2007) it should probably be called Aylostera narvaecensis instead. In any case, I’ve sown regular R. narvaecensis too, so I won’t be changing labels quite until I see whether there are some notable differences between them.

Rebutia narvaecensis ‘espinosae’ with their very pretty flowers. It tentatively began with this one flower,  but it seems it thought the whole thing rather enjoyable and is now setting several more buds.

The same Rebutia narvaecensis ‘espinosae’ from a slightly different angle showing the flower tube and the plant more clearly. The flower is ca. 2 cm wide, while the plant is probably about 2,5 cm wide.

Bibliography:

Donati, D. & Zanovello, C. 2005. Knowing, understanding, growing Turbinicarpus – Rapicactus. Cactus Trentino Südtirol, Trento, 254 p.

Hunt, D. (ed.), Taylor, N., Charles, G. 2006. The New Cactus Lexicon [Text]. dh books, Milborne Port, 374 p.

Pilbeam, J. 1997. Rebutia. Cirio Publishing Services Ltd., Southampton, 160 p.

Pilbeam, J. & Weightman, B. 2006. Ariocarpus et cetera. BCSS, Essex, 140 p.

Ritz, C.M., Martins, L., Mecklenburg, R., Goremykin, V., Hellwig, F.H. 2007. The molecular phylogeny of Rebutia (Cactaceae) and its allies demonstrates the influence of paleogeography on the evolution of South American mountain cacti. American Journal of Botany 94, 1321-1332.

Zachar, M. 2004. The Genus Turbinicarpus. Spolocnost Cactaceae etc., Bratislava, 144 p.

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