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Along with other articles, columns and club updates, each monthly issue of the Henry Shaw Cactus Digest includes an article or two on members' favorite cactus and succulent species. The articles typically include photos and facts on the plants' natural origins and distribution, growing conditions, common and scientific names, care and cultivation tips, and helpful hints for encouraging flower production. Follow the links below this month's offering(s) to enjoy previous Plants of the Month.
April 2013 -- Pachypodium rosulatum v. gracilis
By Rita Taylor
This spiny wonder is a succulent dwarf shrub from Madagascar, where it is one of the most widespread species and can be found almost everywhere on the island. In the wild, this pachypodium grows in full sun in rock crevices or in pockets of humus.
Of interest, too, is that the wild-collected plants have smooth exteriors, but the cultivated plants tend to be covered in spines, as is mine.The mature plant is irregularly lobed with short, tapered branches that divide near the tips to form a coral-like crown.
Rosulatum means rosetted and refers to the tufts of thin, smooth, dark-green leaves. Gracilis is Latin for slender and might also refer to the leaves. This plant does well in full sun, but apparently can also tolerate some partial light shade. It does need well-drained soil and can be watered regularly, but be careful not to overwater.
P. rosulatum is similar in its growth form to P. densifloruman and P. horobense. They all grow a squat base with many short branches, but P. rosulatum has the shortest branches.
The differences among these three species are in their mature size, spine density and flower petal shape. All three have lovely yellow flowers; however, the P. rosulatum flowers are on shorter stalks, are a brighter yellow and do not have center cones. I think it very interesting that one unnamed source stated, "Flowering terminates the longitudinal growth, causing the plant to branch after each flowering event."
I aspire to be a good plant parent and keep this specimen in great shape and ready for the 2014 show. Although I have always liked caudiciform plants, this is my first pachypodium. I do hope it doesn't mind being in the company of all my Adenium obesum plants.
April 2013 -- Mammillaria
By Chris Deem
One hundred and eighty million years ago, a massive group of floating phytoplankton reached the Mexican shore. For millions of years thereafter, their remains mixed with quartz, carbon dioxide and calcium carbonate from shells and seawater. Eventually, some of the phytoplankton, now existing as limestone, found their way to a jutting edge, high atop a steep cliff in Tamaulipas.
Today on this precipice, the limestone is slowly weathering. There on the precipice, fractured and joining with new materials, the limestone holds within it the roots of a small cluster of the species Mammillaria carmenae. There, in the midst of the phytoplankton of old, the spines of the cacti flash red and gold throughout the sunlit hours.
A daydream, it's just a daydream of my favorite Mammillaria species. I like the way the plants look. Many people feel the same way. At least they did once, decades ago, when they were rare and beautiful and came from parts unknown.
They are so diminutive, with their spines of white or gold. We now know from where they come. We now know how easy they are to grow. It was once so different -- once, when the plants were very rare. Sadly, though, their beauty of old is common now and they often die unsold.
I still like this pretty cliff-dwelling species from Tamaulipas. Of course, you may not feel the same way. So bring in your own favorite Mammillaria species, for Plant of the Month on a fine April day.
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