One of the most elusive of all cactus species is Deamia lesludo - named after the botanist Charles Deam who discovered it. Although a great rarity this cactus has always been a favourite and is worth striving for even though it may take years to find one. Like all the members of this group of cacti it is a sprawling plant clambering over rocks and encircling trees in its native habitat in Guatemala.
The stems arc generally five angled although younger stems may have fewer joints at first and they are at first upright but become more pendulous with age. It seems to prefer a shallow pot and grows well on a shelf exposed to the sunlight where the branches have ample room to hang down. The areoles are fairly close, and are produced on slightly raised points on the edges of the ribs. The stems are mid-green and the wings or ribs are tall and very narrow. Fresh joints are formed each year at the growing tip of the previous year's growth and the spreading habit which evolves gives the plant its similarity to the tortoise and hence its Latin name. This likeness becomes even more pronounced in the wild state when the plant has been allowed to dry out and become somewhat shrivelled and colourless. The spines are irregularly arranged, generally about eight in number with one central spine longer than the others. They are pale brown in colour becoming increasingly grey with age. and the areoles produce a small quantity of pale felt. The flowers arc bell shaped and greenish white in colour but are only pro-120 duced on plants of some considerable size.
Selenicerelderive their botanical name from candle. They do best when planted out in a bed and grown up a sunny wall in the greenhouse or conservatory as this allows them to adopt the normal sprawling habit which they have in the wild. Selenicereus grandi-florus is undoubtedly the finest representative of the genus with enormous flowers reportedly up to 15 in (38 cm) in diameter which are white and heavily scented and are produced at night. Its English name, queen of the night, sums up admirably its appeal to botanists and amateurs alike.
In habit it is a much-branched climbing or sprawling plant which if not grown up against a wall will undoubtedly need some staking or training round a hoop. The pale green stems become purple with age or drought and bear between five and seven low ribs. The spines are produced on closely set areoles barely half an inch (I cm) apart, and are at first yellow but become increasingly grey with age and arise from a pad of golden wool in the areole. Like the spines, however, this wool becomes paler with age.
Selenicereus grandiftorus is reputedly less hardy than S.pleranlhus, often known in this country as the princess of the night on account of its somewhat smaller flowers. The main distinction between the two species lies in the stems, those of the latter being rather more angled than ribbed.
In spite of their sprawling habit both the preceding species are somewhat slow growing and take a considerable time to reach flowering size. Those with less time and patience may prefer S. boeckmannii, which is faster growing although it has less spectacular flowers. This species is considered by some authorities to be a hybrid between the two just described and is generally similar in colour and appearance to S. grandiftorus. but the spines are whitish rather than yellow and the areoles are very much more closely set on the five to seven low ribs surrounding the stems. It flowers somewhat more freely than the preceding species, even when quite young.
Another strange member of this group of climbing or sprawling cacti is Crypto-cereus anllionyanus. which at first sight could easily be mistaken for an epiphyllum. The stems are completely flat and tend to hang down making the plant a good subject for a hanging basket. The areoles are buried deep in the notches of the saw-edged stems and are practically invisible on the mature ster-s although they are a little more conspicuous on the younger growth where they may be accompanied by some wool and a few bristles. The most important distinguishing feature of this species is the presence of adventitious or aerial roots which are formed along the mid-rib-at irregular intervals and this is not a feature of cpiphyllums. The stems are pale green and the younger growth is prominently tinged with red at the sides.
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