Friday, October 18, 2013

It's Lithops Blooming Time !!

Lithops  lesliei  var.  hornii 

I have more plants of Lithops lesliei than any other type.  I like the large size of the plants, the relatively flat top of the leaves, the very interesting patterns of the leaf colors, and last but not least,  they are one of the easiest lithops to grow. 
Shown is a three headed plant of L. lesliei v. hornii C364.  It was grown from seed planted in the fall of  2002.  Lithops are occasionally called "Midday Flowers" because the flowers usually don't open wide until about 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Growing the Weirdest of the Weird

Astrophytum caput-medusae


As plants go, cacti are weird.  They are usually round or cylindrical and either covered with spines, hair, wool, or some strange textured material.  Since I like weird plants, I collect and grow cacti, and one of my favorites are the species and varieties of the genus Astrophytum, the star cactus.  The astrophytums are round or slightly columnar, and their bodies covered with small tufts of white hairs or scales called trichomes.  Their flowers are relatively large, usually yellow, often with red centers.  As plants go, like the other cacti, astrophytums are weird.   Shown at the right is Astrophytum myriostigma. 
On August 28, 2001 in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Manuel Nev├írez discovered a very strange, and weird cactus, one that had never been seen before.  Finding a plant, in this case a cactus, new to science is a great discovery. But this cactus was not only new, it was really weird.  It wasn't round or cylindrical, instead, it had tentacles (botanically known as tubercles).  The tubercles were covered with white wool or scales, just like astrophytums.  When it flowered, the flowers were relatively large, yellow, with red centers, just like astrophytums.  The fruit and seeds were also just like those of other astrophytums.  Although there are disagreements, most botanist now believe this is another species of astrophytum, perhaps the weirdest of the weird.
The photo of the new Astrophytum caput-medusae
at right is from the book "Ariocarpus et cetera" by John Pilbeam & Bill Weightman. which has a wonderful section on astrophytums.  I didn't have my own photo of A. caput-medusa because I had never grown one.
Since I like growing astrophytums, and this was certainly an interesting one, I finally ordered 10 seeds.  I sowed the seeds in March 2013.  Eight seeds germinated but two of the tiny seedlings died during the first few weeks, but six survived and are now beginning to developed into that weird form complete with long, tentacles covered with the white trichomes.  The growth is very slow, likely because these plants have a large, tuberous root,  which develops before the top growth gets large.  Right now my Astrophytum caput-medusa seedlings (shown at right) are growing under fluorescent lights and will remain there until next summer when I will introduce them to the sun.
I always enjoy growing new and unusual plants, although it is always a little scary when you have no experience with them.  I look forward to watching them grow and mature, and hopefully produce their beautiful flowers.  I'll try to keep their progress posted right here on Cactus Hill Adventures.   If anyone out there is growing, or has grown this strange plants please tell us about it.  Thanks.   


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Summer Lithops Home

The Summer Home for my Lithops

I grow my lithops outside during the frost free part of the year.  They receive approximately 6 to 8 hours of direct sun daily.  To manage the amount of water they receive, I place them on a small platform (shown) that is covered with clear plastic.
The plastic only covers the top and back of the frame, thus allowing good air circulation.  

The cover is easily removed when I want to examine or water the plants.   Space is limited to 60 to 80 pots depending on the size of the pots.  The surface area of the platform equals the space I have inside the house where the lithops will spend the winter. On average I move the plants outside in late April and back inside in late October.

The photo to the right was taken today, October 2, 2013.  I've moved the plastic cover back off the platform to show the plants in flower. Almost all the plants shown were grown from seed.   I have done a little pollinating but I'm not sure why; maybe just to enjoy watching the seed capsules develop.  I really don't have room for a lot more plants.  I sold, or gave away, 18 adult lithops this summer at our (Washington, D.C. C&S Society) local society show and sale.  While my C&S collection is a general mix of many types of cacti and other succulents, I have more lithops than any other genera, although the numbers of  astrophytum cacti in the collection is growing rapidly.  :)

Lithops are neat plants and I really enjoy growing them.