Notocactus continued

Notocactus mammuiosus should not be confused with N. submammulosus or the latter's variety pampeanus with which it is frequently mixed up. The two plants are very dissimilar in appearance, the one illustrated above being much more like the group of Notocacti which includes N. apricus and N. tabularis.

Notocactus mammuiosus has at first low. globular, somewhat depressed plant bodies which become cylindrical as they grow older. It is a native of Uruguay and one reason for the great diversity is the extremely variable form the plant can adopt, particularly where its habitat spills over into the neighbouring coastal areas of Brazil. The depressed central growing point of the stem is almost completely fiat and unarmed but further out the stem is surrounded by between thirteen and twenty low notched ribs. The stems of the true species are normally dark to mid-green and paler stems probably represent intermediate forms as a result of hybridization. The spines arc produced from closely packed areolcs set between the notches on the ribs. There is a certain amount of wool in the younger areoles. The radials are about seven in number and are weak, white, and bristly. The central spine is normally solitary but occasionally there may be two of them, yellowish near the base becoming paler in the central part and frequently tipped dark brownish red when young.

The flowers are canary yellow in colour with rounded petals and are often so profusely produced that they completely cover 142 the top of the plant.

Notocactus muricatus resembles N. tabularis as mentioned on page 140 but has much darker central spines. The plant bodies are at first globular but as with so many other Notocacti they become progressively more cylindrical as they grow older and can ultimately attain a height of 4in (10cm) or more in cultivation. The stems are pale green and are closely surrounded by the low. almost imperceptible, notched ribs which may be up to twenty in number. The radials. like those of N. tabularis and N. apricus, are pale and spreading, rather weak to the touch. The centrals, as already mentioned, are darker and the flowers are canary yellow.

Although there is no great resemblance varieties of Notocactus which are being introduced commercially. In addition to the small-flowered N.horstii. there is the purple-flowered N.herteri named after its discoverer who found it in Uruguay. The flowers are only produced on mature plants, which attain a considerable size for this otherwise low-growing genus. It is distinctive on account of the tuberculate appearance of the ribs. N. rut Hans is another fairly recent introduction and like the preceding species is a native of Uruguay. The small plant bodies are surrounded by deep ribs which are very tuberculate, the flowers are purple on the outside and yellow inside and

Notocactus ononis is a very variable plant as a result of its enormously wide geographic distribution throughout South

America. Two distinct sorts seem to be on the market at the moment. One. which is probably the more typical, starts olf globular but grpws fairly quickly into a cylindrical shape. At this point offsets start appearing round the base and it is a good idea to save these and pot them up separately as older plants of N. ononis seem to become more susceptible to pests and diseases with age.

The plant bodies are dark to pale green and are surrounded by about twelve broad prominent ribs. The radial spines are pale yellow to brown in colour and between ten and eighteen in number. One of the most variable features of this species is the central spine, which is sometimes lacking altogether and sometimes can number as many as four. The flowers are produced very freely and this particular species has the advantage that the flowers can last for more than the single day so typical of other members of the genus.

The most commonly seen variety of N. ononis appears to be N. o. linkii. The petals of this variety are almost heart shaped and it is considerably smaller and slower growing than the species illustrated.

Parodia

The pale green stems of Nolocaclus scopa are almost entirely covered with soft bristles and it is these which give the plant its attractive appearance. It is definitely a collector's piece and not as commonly seen as it should be. possibly because it only flowers when four years old or more and then somewhat unreliably, making it difficult to obtain seed on a consistent basis. The ribs vary in number between thirty and thirty-five on mature specimens and completely surround the stems, which are globular at first but subsequently elongate and become cylindrical in a spiral pattern. The areoles are close together and have a dense filling of white wool and produce numerous radial spines, snow white in colour and really more like hairs than spines. These spread across and interlock with one another giving the plant its snow-covered appearance. The reddish coloration is given by the brown centrals, two or four in number, which rise from the centre of the areoles. Plants raised in this country generally have shorter spines than imported specimens, but there is no varietal difference.

Once the plant has reached flowering size it makes a doubly valuable addition to the collection because it is also one of the first of all the Nolocaeli to flower. When the flowers do appear they are bright yellow.

throughout Southern Brazil and Uruguay. Near the coast of Uruguay and on the outcrops of the Brazilian coastal mountains there is a form much prized by collectors called N. s. mberrima. This differs from the true species, as its name suggests, in having a ruby-red central spine which gives the plant an extremely handsome appearance.

I have already mentioned N.submam-mulosus as being a distinctive species rather different from N.mammulosus. The true .V. submammulosus has only one central spine as opposed to N.mammulosus which has two. However, the species most commonly labelled as N. submammulosus is N. s. pampeanus. This makes a globular plant at first with a somewhat depressed top but becoming elongated and cylindrical with age. The depressed central growing point of the dark green plant body is almost completely unarmed and the spines, when they do appear, do so from those areoles nearer the edge of the plant. It is a reliable flowerer and the first indication is the presence of large woolly buds in the unarmed areoles at the centre of the plant. The ribs are broad and prominent and mature specimens may have up to twenty of them. The radial spines are ash grey in colour and up to ten in number and interlock with one another forming a vicious covering to the plant. The central spine is very stiff and stout, nearly U in (3-5 cm) in length, grey for the most part but with a yellowish patch nearer the base.

Nolocaclus submammulosus itself has fewer, normally thirteen, ribs, which are less pronouncedly notched that other Nolocaclus species and the central spine is not so long as the variety described above.

Parodias are divided into two groups botanically. those with hooked spines and those with straight ones. Species mentioned ihion on page 144 and P. nivosa on page 146: all the other illustrated varieties have hooked central spines.

Parotlia aureispiiui is a native of Northern Argentina and has bluish-green spherical bodies divided into rows of spiral tubercles. As its name implies the spines are all golden yellow: the numerous radials are thin and weak, the centrals very much more prominent. nearly #n inch (2-5 cm) in length and sometimes up to six in number. The magnificent golden-yellow flowers are produced in great profusion at the top of the plant in the late spring and early summer.

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Parodia (continued)

Purodia aurihtunata is very similar to P. aureispina but is very much more common in cultivation. The main difference in cultivated material which I have seen is in the flower colour; the flowers of the former species having no trace of orange in them at all and being more a canary yellow than a golden yellow.

Parodia calamarcensis is another similar species with four curved, hooked, short, dark red central spines, but it differs as soon as flowering commences in having magnificent white flowers.

Parodias are reasonably tolerant plants although comparatively slow growing. They are generally fairly free flowering but some species, notably P. maassii. need to be well established before they flower. The great number of different species with different flowering times means that a succession of flowers can be had from the early spring, when P. chrysacanthion is one of the first of all cacti to come into flower, through the mid-spring and early summer with P. inula-bilis and P.sanguiniflora. and into late summer and autumn with P. mairanana and P. gracilis, which will go on flowering until water is withdrawn completely.

Parodia chrysacanthion starts to produce flowers as soon as the days become longer than the nights and sometimes before if the weather is warm. Although the flowers are a little insignificant and to some extent hidden among the dense white bristles near the top of the plant they are welcome as the first signs that the flowering season for the cacti is about to commence. Flowers will often appear before water is given to the plant but watering should start as soon as possible after the buds or flowers have been identified and the plant n growth.

The plant bodies are globular and occasionally adopt a somewhat cylindrical shape, although this is rare; ultimately they attain a height and diameter of some 3 in (8 cm). The stems are pale green and the thirty low ribs with slight notches are arranged spirally round them. The radials are very dense and completely cover the stems. They are weak and bristly and white or pale straw coloured. The centrals are a rich golden yellow when young but become white with age and the pale yellow wool, which is present in the younger areolcs. also disappears with age.

The canary-yellow flowers are generally rather small, about three-quarters of an inch (2 cm) in diameter and are normally unable to open fully as the spines surrounding them at the top of the plant are pressed too tightly together.

Parodia grucilis is a species with hooked spines, already mentioned for its value towards the latter part of the season when it and Notocactus horstii are amongst some of the last varieties to flower. The globular plant bodies ultimately attain a height of some 4 in (10 cm) but the species is comparatively slow growing. The stems are pale green and surrounded by sixteen low ribs arranged in a spiral round the sides of the plant. The radials are twenty or more in number, white with a brownish tip as though they had already dug into someone's finger and drawn blood. The central spines are brown at first but become grey and then white with age, and the large areoles, which are produced at half-inch (1-cm) intervals, have felt in them. The flowers although small and seldom opening fully because of pressure from the spines are valuable for reasons mentioned earlier and are a fairly striking orange in colour.

Parodias appreciate full sunlight and a well drained porous compost. They are generally rather slow growing and should not be fed profusely in an attempt to encourage them to put on more girth as this will seriously jeopardize the chances of flower production. If you do want plants to grow quickly to a large size it is best to graft them on to a vigorous rootstock and then, when they have reached an adequate size, to re-establish them on their own roots. However, the faster growth obtained by this method sometimes means that some of the characteristics of the wild species are lost.

Although most of the parodias are free flowering, this cannot be said of Parudia maassii. This plant is an inhabitant of high altitudes throughout Northern Argentina and Southern Bolivia and although slow growing it attains a considerable size in its wild state. The plants are globular in shape at first and elongate to become cylindrical as they grow older. The green plant bodies can attain a diameter of up to 3 in (8 cm) and the ribs, which are spirally arranged round the sides of them, number between thirteen and twenty-one. The areoles are closely set and have a filling of soft white wool from which the fifteen or so straw-coloured spines emerge and up to four centrals. which are always curved and normally at least one of which is hooked. These central spines are the main attraction of the plant which seldom produces its reddish flowers in cultivation.

Generally parodias are difficult to raise from seed (see also page 147) as this is very small indeed and is susceptible lo fungal attacks and algal infestations in its early stages, quite apart from problems with its viability even when freshly harvested. In spite of its slow growth and shy-flowering habits P. maassii seems easier than most. If you wish to raise parodias from seed scrupulous hygiene is essential and considerable warmth is necessary to induce them to germinate. In fact, germination will not normally succeed without a purpose-built heated propagation unit. It is also essential that the seed is very fresh as viability falls offquickly. unlike many other

Parodia mairanana is an excellent orange-flowered parodia somewhat similar to P. gracilis in appearance. It is globular in habit and in cultivation ultimately attains a height of 3 to 4in (8 to 10cm) with a diameter to match. The stems are pale green and surrounded by somewhat broader ribs than those of P. gracilis and normally there are fewer of them, thirteen or so as opposed to the sixteen ribs more frequently seen on the other species. The ribs are strongly tuberculate with a prominent notch below each areole which is carried round the sides of the ribs horizontally.

The radial spines are quite attractive, seven to nine in number and of a dirty brownish-yellow colour with marked black points. The three or four centrals are similar in colour but rather longer and one at least is normally hooked. The orange flowers are produced during mid- to late summer and go on appearing until the beginning of September in favourable conditions.

Parudia sanagosia is similar to the illustrated species in having greyish spines, although these are lipped purple rather than black, and the stems are a greyish green normally turning red in full sunlight with rather more numerous ribs, up to twenty-five in number. The flowers of P. sanagosia are yellow.

Parodia microsperma was one of the first members of this genus to be introduced into cultivation and it has remained a standby of nurserymen and collectors ever since. The mid-green plant bodies ultimately attain a height of some 3 in (8 cm) or more and are broadly globular in shape, although a certain amount of elongation occurs with age. The tubercles on which the areoles are produced are very pronounced and somewhat triangular in section, and are neatly arranged in twenty-two or so spiral rows round the sides of the stems. The areoles at first have quite a lot of white wool in them but this becomes less round the sides and base of the plants as they mature. The radial spines are very variable in number, short, white and bristly, and form a light covering round the plant rather than giving it the appearance of being densely covered with spines. The central spines are up to four in number and reddish in colour, the lowest and longest attaining a length of over an inch (2-5 cm) and being pronouncedly hooked.

The flowers are the main attraction of this species and are produced over a long period in midsummer, sometimes as many as thirty being carried on a plant in a season. They are very variable in colour and tnis may not necessarily be the result of hybridization although in some cases this will clearly be the cause. Generally the flowers fall into the range between reddish orange and golden yellow but some pure red forms and some pure yellow forms have been seen

Parodia (continued)

Parodia mulabilis is so called because of the very wide variations that occur quite naturally both in spine colour and texture and in the colour and size of the flowers. It is a valuable plant in the collection, flowering early on in the year and freely at that time. The plant bodies are bluish green and globular in shape, remaining like this throughout their life even when mature and of flowering size, unlike some of the other species discussed which lend to elongate with age. Ultimately the height in cultivation may reach 3 in (8 cm) or so, but like most parodias it is comparatively slow growing once it has reached its third or fourth year. A constant feature of the species is the colour of the short spreading radial spines which are always white, and on typical specimens arc normally very dense forming a white skin round the surface of the plant. Plants with straw-coloured radials which are occasionally sold as P. mulabilis are more likely to be hybrids and many may more properly be ascribed to P. aureispina described earlier and illustrated on page 143. The central spines arc very variable in number and in colour, usually three or four and normally tinged with orange, and at least one of the spines formed in each areole is prominently hooked at its tip. The flowers, like the central spines, are variable in colour, generally orange, although sometimes this is sharply flushed wilh a lint of red.

Many of the naturally occurring varieties have been given names and one of the most attractive of these is P. m. carneospina. The four central spines in this variety are linged pink or even darker red when young and are arranged in a cruciform pattern in each areole. The throats of the flowers are tinted with orange at the base.

Parodia nivosa is recognizable by its unhooked central spines. Il is similar in size and habit to P. mulabilis but the stems are darker green and the number of rows of tubercles on younger plants is much less than in the preceding species, even two-year-old plants may only have nine rows in my experience, although subsequently they make many more. As its name suggests the plant bodies arc fairly well covered by white spreading radial spines nearly half an inch (1 cm) in length and about thirteen in number. Although most varieties bought under this name in Britain tend to have solitary central spines this is uncharacteristic of the plant in the wild where as many as five spines may be produced at the centre of each areole. These spines, like the radials, are al first white but become discoloured and brownish with age. Although it is a shy flowerer and often takes three or four years to reach flowering size, this variety is worth waiting for as the smallish red flowers contrast splendidly with the shimmering white spines on a sunny day. The areoles are filled with while hair and this adds to the striking appearance of the plant

Other varieties with straight spines include P.faustiana, which has yellow flowers, white spines and rather more numerous centrals, even in home-grown specimens.

Parodia rubelliliamaia is a comparatively recent introduction to the range of commercially available parodias in Britain. Its globular stems ultimately attain a height of about 3 in (8 cm) and are mid-green in colour with about twenty spirally arranged ribs circling the sides. The radials number about twenty on most plants and can be up to half an inch (I cm) in length. They are borne on fairly close areoles which are at first packed with wool but later lose this. The centrals are a prominent feature of the plant as its name (which means red spined in Greek) suggests. They are normally three in number and when young are tipped with black which gives them an even more dangerous appearance. The longest spine in each cluster is hooked sharply and can be up to an inch (2-5 cm) in length making il dangerous to put these plants on the edge of the staging if you regularly wear a pullover in the greenhouse.

In many respects the variety is similar to P. rubrifiora and P. sanguiniflora (described opposite) but it differs completely from lhese in having yellow flowers whereas the other two species have bright red ones. However, considerable variation does occur in horticulturally produced specimens, possibly as a result of hybridization, and some forms of P. rubelliluimala with pronounced red central spines may. in fact, have reddish

I have mentioned earlier the difficulty of raising parodias from seed with any great degree of success and before leaving the genus it would be as well to elaborate on some of the instructions given on page 145. The compost in which the seeds are to be sown should be a proprietary seed compost rather than a special cactus seed compost and the seed tray should be tilled slightly proud, with the compost. Ideally the compost should be shaped so as to create a central mound which slopes very gradually to the sides of the seed tray. The difference in height, however, between the centre of the compost and the sides should not be more than half an inch (I cm) or so. The tray filled with compost should be dipped in a solution of some systemic fungicide such as benomyl and the fresh seed mixed with fine sharp washed river sand in the proportion of one part of seed to about four parts of sand. This sand and seed mixture should then be strewn over the damp surface of the compost and the whole tray put into a warm propagating unit. If no such unit is available an unlit airing cupboard makes an excellent substitute, and some writers even go so far as to suggest that, unlike many cactus species, parodia seeds generally do better when germinated in the dark than when given the optimum full-light conditions of a greenhouse.

Parodia rubriflora illustrated above is very similar in most respects to P. sanguini-flora illustrated beside it. It is generally a much smaller plant and many authorities prefer to treat it as a variety of P. sanguini-flora rather than as a species in its own right.

Parodia sanguiniflora itself is one of the best loved and most widely grown of all parodias. It is a fast-growing plant when young, having a tendency (like Nolocacius leningliausii ) to split open if allowed to grow too fast in a warm, moist environment. Although not normally one of the earliest of species to come into flower it may be taken into a warm moist environment in early spring (the end of February and the beginning of March) and if water is applied, sparingly at first, so as to enable the plant to start up into growth, it is possible to have it in flower a little earlier. There appears to be no loss in vigour or profusion of flowers as a result of this 'forcing'.

It is somewhat larger than most of the parodias described and although globular during its early years it becomes more cylindrical with age attaining a height of 4 in ( I Ocm) or more. The stems are dark green, and the closely spaced areoles borne in the numerous warty spiral ribs are at first densely packed with whitish wool which they tend to lose as they mature. The radiais are very numerous in number but weak and bristly. They are white in colour and contrast well with the dark reddish hooked central spines which number up to five at each areole. Although this contrast is very marked on the younger areoles the central spines become progressively paler with age', ultimately becoming almost com-

The flowers are very freely produced but unlike most other parodias the petals are narrow and give the plant a somewhat ragged appearance. This is a distinguishing feature between the true species and the numerous hybrids and varieties often wrongly ascribed the name. Many of these should probably be called P. rubriflora.

Parodia x scopaoides is a recently introduced variety and is still a little uncommon in cultivation. Its globular dark green bodies are surrounded by between twenty-live and thirty spirally arranged tuberculate ribs, which in their turn are completely hidden by the dense spreading white radial spines. The latter can grow to a considerable length compared with most other parodias where the radial spines tend to be fairly short, often attaining a length of something approaching an inch (2-5 cm). The areoles are at first filled with white wool and this adds to the snowy appearance of the plant. The centrals are red tipped with black and are about the same length as the radial spines, they number three to five and the longest is invariably hooked at the top.

The flowers are reddish orange in colour and produced between midsummer and the beginning of autumn. Although not a profuse flowerer it lends to provide a certain amount of interest in between the major batches of flowers in the collection which generally appear at the beginning and end of the summer.

Melocactus

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