Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring is Mammillaria Time


Mammillaria  glassii subsp. ascensionis

Late winter through spring is the season many of the mammillaria cacti flower.  Of course there are some that flower during the summer, but some of the really nice species in my collection produce their flowers in March through May.   This includes Mammillaria glassii shown below.  It is named after Charlie Glass, the long time editor of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America bimonthly journal.  It is native to the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. 
Usually you grow a particular Mammillaria because the flowers are outstanding, or the spines are outstanding.  With M. glassii subsp. ascensionis you get both.  The flowers are relatively large and an attractive pink, and the spines, and axillary hairs, present the appearance of shinning hair.  A most beautiful plant in and out of flowering.  
The plant shown was seed grown and began life sometime in the early 1990's.  I have lost the exact date the seed was sown but the plant is approximately 20 years old.  It an easy plant to grow but requires a lot of direct sun for good flowering. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Visiting US Botanic Garden Production Facility


The Mesemb Section of the

U.S. Botanic Garden Production Facility

In Washington, D.C.


On Saturday, March 8, 2014 I visited the production greenhouses of the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.   This is a large greenhouse complex that does the behind the scenes work for the U.S. Botanic Garden in downtown Washington, D.C.  The production greenhouses are also a rescue facility for plants confiscated at various custom facilities around the country.  The production facility is one very large glass enclosed structure, divided into 10 separate greenhouses, each holding a different type of plants, depending on their environmental requirements.  Here's an aerial view of the facility.
One of the 10 greenhouse divisions within the facility houses cacti and other succulents.   Within the C&S division the various benches hold groups of related plants.  A third of one of the long benches is home of their mesemb collection, which is shown below.
There were a lot of interesting cacti and succulents in the greenhouse and I'll try to post a few more photos over the next couple of weeks.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Desert in my Backyard


Carruanthus  peersii


Carruanthus peersii is a small succulent from South Africa.  It is a member of the Aizoaceae plant family.  This family was originally known as the Mesembryanthemaceae, and plants within that family still are known as the"Mesembs".
I have enjoyed growing the "mesembs" for a long time and always liked the idea of establishing some of them outside in my planting of hardy cacti and other succulents.  Carruanthus was not rated winter hardy enough to withstand a full winter outside, but I did want to try some of the mesembs outside just for the frost free part of the year, and Carruanthus peersii was one of my first outside test plants.  The photo below shows it enjoying the free root run in the open ground, and even flowering as a display of its satisfaction.  Unfortunately, that was not to last.
During one of my weekly checks of C. peersii, it was gone, only an empty hole remaining.  I was perplexed, and not sure what had happened.  Several days later, on approaching the cactus hardy bed, I saw something small and furry moving amongst the plants.  I sat still on the ground and watched a small cotton-tail rabbit moving through the area where several other mesembs had been planted.  After the rabbit digging and gnawing at something on the ground, I moved to the bed, the rabbit scampering off.  Another mesemb had been pulled out of the ground, and several others were partially eaten.  My problem with growing mesembs wasn't the winter cold, it was hungry rabbits.  Over the next several years I tried numerous other South Africa succulents outside in the ground but nearly every time they were destroyed or damaged by either rabbits or an occasional skunk.  I guess that's just part of nature.  Now all my mesembs grow in pots.