July 2008

Blogs31 Jul 2008 04:43 pm

A Trip Down Succulent Lane got a beautiful Euphorbia lactea ghost crest graft as a gift. Photo ensued. What’s not to like?

Misc31 Jul 2008 02:46 pm

…in the shape of a cactus. What more could you possibly ever want. This is it, everything put together into one flattering shape. I could wax poetic for months and never really get to the heart of the matter as clearly as this vase does. It makes me feel inadequate. I may have to stop blogging. Certainly, I should stop my limericks.

Signed on bottom by what appears to be Christian Tortu –Luminous clear blue and amber tone glass in potted cactus shape –Could be used as vase, holes in cactus arms also see photo) –Mint condition

Size: 9w x 5d x 19h
Condition: Mint

Better hurry, this item won’t last long (it’s an auction).

Photography31 Jul 2008 10:31 am

It’s the cactus from yesterday’s video in full bloom, up close.

Ferocactus hamatacanthus

Update: In comments below, Aiyana asked if I use black backdrops, which I do. However, for this photo, there was no backdrop since I cropped it pretty severely. However, the cactus underneath the blooms was in deep shadow. If you look closely, you can sort of see it. Here’s a closeup of the lower right corner where I’ve used photoshop to lighten the shadow area so you can see the cactus beneath:

Questions31 Jul 2008 07:41 am

Here we have a 2 part question.

Q: I have a cactus tha is over 15 years old. I was watering it the other day and was picking it up when it almost broke in half. What should I do to keep it alive.


Preliminary answer:


Can you email me a photo? If it is a big break it may be that you need to cut it off and re-root it, if it is a species that will re-root. If it isn’t you will need to “splint” it and hope that it will heal up strong enough to support it’s weight. But a photo would help me give you better advice.


…and, yes, here comes a new email with photo… so now we get the rest of it….


I would recommend repotting in fresh cactus soil, mulching with a small rough gravel like lava or small crushed rock and laying the whole cacus on it’s side on top of the gravel, it should root along the length and then grow new “pups” along the length and turn in to a many headed cactus. Do not use smooth gravel like aquarium gravel as it stays too wet. It does look like it would like more light… so try moving it closer to the window or to a south or west facing window.

Good luck,

Videos - Instructional30 Jul 2008 02:34 pm

Photography&Polls30 Jul 2008 10:43 am

Ferocactus hamatacanthus

These large barrels have thin hooked spines, yellow blooms and greenish fruit.

I can’t decide between the bud photo with bloom in the background or the bloom photo with the buds nearby:

Such choices will have to be made.

In the meantime, I’m posting a video later today that includes this very plant a couple days later in full bloom. Look for it!

Questions30 Jul 2008 07:28 am

Hi guys,

I have a question for you about a beautiful Ferocactus latispinus that I purchased from you in February. The plant had been living at your shop, on one of the outdoor racks, for many months through the Berkeley winter. About a week after I bought it I moved to Los Angeles…en route to New Zealand. Unfortunately, the cactus had to stay behind in southern California, where it is living with my mom. About 5 days after we (the cactus and I) arrived in LA I noticed that parts of the plants were experiencing what looked like bleaching or loss of pigment. It was warm in LA, but not too hot, and for acclimation reasons I had put the plant in an area where it would get some direct but mostly filtered light. I thought the bleaching would be a temporary effect of the transition to a warmer and/or brighter setting, and that the pigment would return, but my mom just sent me some photos and it looks like those parts of the plant are still quite pale…about the color of the pale/yellow form of Euphorbia ammak v. variegata. This concerns me, but the cactus does appear to be (somewhat) “happy” as it is growing and the region of new growth on the top of the plant is the deep green color I’d expect. Can you explain what I’m seeing? This little guy is my favorite plant and I want to do whatever I can to keep him healthy and happy. I’d send a picture but my mom doesn’t have a digital camera. If you need a pic for proper diagnosis I can arrange for one to be taken. Thanks very much for your help! Hope all is going well at the jungle.

Department of Zoology
University of Otago
New Zealand


It sounds like the bleached parts are a sign of sunburn, it most likely happened by the north facing side suddenly getting rotated to face south after the move and the skin cells that were not ready for UV getting a good zap. It will take a long time to heal up and if it was a bad burn it may convert the burned areas to “bark” rather than green skin… but the chlorophyll may still recover. As long as the growing tip at the crown looks green and healthy, the plant will eventually grow out it though it may have scars.

Take care,


p.s. does your post-doc in zoology get you out to see the Tuatara? They are so cool! I want to meet one someday.

Photography29 Jul 2008 02:17 pm

Echinopsis peruviana

Continuing my outsourced blogging from earlier today, from wikipedia:

Some uses for Echinopsis peruviana include:[1]

  • Antirheumatic: The stem is cut, soaked for a day and the next day used to wash the area of pain with this mucilage water.
  • Vetrinarial: For getting rid of pig parasites, the cactus stem is peeled, smashed and let to soak in water overnight. It is then mixed with food given to the animal.
  • Adherent in paints: The peeled stems are beaten and left to stand in water, filtrate is added to minerals such as lime or gypsum. The result is a kind of gum for paint.
  • Wood: The dried stalks are very resistant to moths. The dried stalks are used to make scales and in the construction of houses.

Good to know. And still there’s more, on the ethnobotanical qualities of the plant:

It contains a number of psychoactive alkaloids, in particular the well-studied chemical mescaline, which it sometimes contains at higher levels than those of Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro cactus), although not as high as Lophophora williamsii (Peyote).

Photography29 Jul 2008 11:11 am

Echinopsis peruviana

I feel like outsourcing my blogging today. Here’s what wikipedia has to say about this spectacular ethnobotanical cactus:

A fast-growing columnar cactus native to the western slope of the Andes in Peru, between about 2000-3000 meters above sea level.

The plant is bluish-green in colour, with frosted stems, and 6-8 broadly rounded ribs; it has large, white flowers. It can grow up to 7 meters tall, with stems up to 20 cm in diameter; it is fully erect to begin with, but later possibly arching over, or even becoming prostrate. Groups of 6-8 honey-coloured to brown rigid spines, up to 4 cm in length, with most about 1 cm, are located at the nodes, which are evenly spaced along the ribs, up to approximately 2.5 cm apart.

A short-spined variant which is nearly identical in appearance to its relative, Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro cactus), is known. It is therefore possible that many misidentified plants are being sold (both as Peruvian Torch and as San Pedro), but since local variations as well as hybrids do exist (both cultivated and natural), this will obviously make proper identification difficult.

More later today…

Questions29 Jul 2008 07:53 am

…if we can identify a plant or two for them.

Q: Hi Peter and Hap,

I’m attaching some not good photos.

The red succulent I just wondered what it’s called. It grows great in the clay soil.

The biggest cluster of “little blue/green beans” is on the left side of my shadow in the vertical center of the shot. There are a few more above those and more in the center. And there’s a lone one below the big cluster. They have a spike-like texture to them & they’re the size of peas. I love them & would like to try them in the other, better soil.


A: Phyllis,

The more colorful one is a selection of Sedum rubrotinctum, possibly the clone called ‘Aurora’, although it is hard to tell from the photo… colors of the named clones will vary on light and soil conditions. The Blue-green one looks more like a Grapto-sedum hybrid, but I am not sure. I would need to see it in person or have a closeup photo.

Take care
Questions28 Jul 2008 04:33 pm

In North Andover, MA they have a question and answer section in the paper.

Q: I was given a sunrise cactus three years ago, and it was in full bloom. It was beautiful! However, it hasn’t bloomed since then. I have it on my dining room table, and it gets morning sun. The plant itself is very green and healthy looking, but no buds. I have put it outdoors in the summer and will do so again this weekend. Any suggestions on how I can get it to bloom again?

A: Your plant sounds very healthy! Now your sunrise cactus, so named because the flowers open in the morning and close at night, isn’t a desert cactus but rather one of the family of epiphytic jungle cactus, sometimes called holiday cactuses. This particular variety is often called an Easter cactus, because of the spring blooming period. And yes, it’s related to your Christmas cactus. Some sun year-round is desirable, but be very careful of direct, hot sun at any time of the year. They do love to be outside in the summer!

In the fall, like poinsettias, they require a period of cooler, drier, longer days to bloom well. In October, reduce watering, keep the plant in a dark place from late afternoon to dawn and replace in strong light each morning. The cactus is going through a period of semi-dormancy then, so do not feed during this period. You should have beautiful blooms in the spring!

Well, that made for easy blogging this afternoon, farming out my chores to those crazy Bay-Staters. That should give me time to write some more limericks…

Misc28 Jul 2008 03:10 pm

Yes, I don’t understand it any more than you do, but Martha Stewart is selling a barrel cactus.


This unique, barrel-shaped cactus is said to grow towards the south, leading to its “compass cactus” nickname. A wonderful selection for the cactus aficionado or for the cacti novice.

Stately Barrel Cactus is traditionally fast-growing and can eventually yield small, pineapple-shaped yellow flowers around the crown.

Well, that’s a whole lot of oddity. It’s a golden barrel, not a compass barrel, so it won’t “grow towards the south.” It’s nickname is “mother-in-law’s seat” which is even more entertaining than the made-up “compass cactus”. It’s not fast growing, and it won’t yield pineapple shaped yellow flowers. It will be at least 20 years before it flowers at all, and then they will be small yellow flowers like this.

If you have more than one of these 20 years from now and they are both in bloom at the same time, and they were cross-pollinated, then you may get pineapple-shaped fruits, like a pineapple is a pineapple-shaped fruit too.

How do I know all this? I bought one of these from Martha 15 years ago already and I still haven’t had a single pineapple-shaped flower on my compass cactus that doesn’t face south! I’m so mad I could steam an asparagus.

But I don’t hold it against dear Martha. Oh no, I hold it against those minions of hers who have always been plotting against her, trying to ruin her, trying to bring down her empire. But they won’t succeed! Not on my watch.

Photography&Science28 Jul 2008 09:06 am

I previously blogged this plant in bloom and that bloom was a lot less red than this one, but taken at an angle that really showed the “torch” character of the flower.

Here we get to see the depth of the red.

Echinopsis huascha

I like to use this plant when in bloom as an example at the nursery for natural variations of a single species vs. labeling every cultivar with a “name”. So I’m sure I could take the more orange one, and cultivate it for the orange blooms since they pup readily, propagate a whole messload of clones, and give it a name like, Echinopsis huascha “Fairy Tale Princess”. But I prefer to see them all as individuals, even when cloned, and to respect the natural variations without resorting to separating them into new cultivars.

I suppose this means I see nature more as a continuity than as a series of discrete species. Botanists will be outraged! Does that make me bad?

News28 Jul 2008 07:04 am

It’s a fine and clear but cloudy Monday morning. Today we’re going to the SF Gift Show. I hate the gift show.

Anyway, the San Francisco Chronicle tells you how to plant not just plants for your drought tolerant garden, but ones that will be fire-safe in the hills as well. Because it is basically true that if you stop watering your garden, your plants are more likely to provide tinder for a fire. Except for succulents. And a few other plants too.

Keeping the fuel load away from your home – and that means trees, heavy shrubbery, wooden decks and fences – is important, he said, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice privacy and or go without a garden or patio….

Even in drought conditions, a garden maintained with mulching and careful water use can offer a good defense against an encroaching fire, Egbert said….

California native plants are good for the perimeter beyond the cottage garden, where they add to the buffer and attract birds and butterflies, he said, and he favors “low stone walls that host bowls of succulents like ruffled leaf echeverias, blooming sedums and native dudley(a)s.

“Succulents are ideal fire-safe landscape candidates, with their thick water-retentive leaves and often-colorful waxy surfaces. The walls themselves help to reduce the spread of low flames and blowing sparks as permanent firebreaks.”

That was a large excerpt. I hope the writer, Laura Thomas, Chronicle Staff Writer, doesn’t mind.

Poetry27 Jul 2008 04:31 pm

You’re in luck! 

There once was a lad with a cactus
On which he could waltz with some practice
He was waltzing one day
while his girl was away
When the cactus did practice spiny tactics

Well, maybe you weren’t in luck after all. Sorry about that.

Photography27 Jul 2008 11:59 am

So many flowers. So so many flowers. On this one plant, that is.

Opuntia imbricata, also known as Cylindropuntia imbricata, or even as the Chain-link Cholla.

I don’t know why.

But it’s a nice medium height shrubby cholla, not the most dangerous one around, but still pretty nasty.

Misc26 Jul 2008 09:13 pm

Ever felt fear of your cacti? Chris Walken has. He has a solution he wants to share with you.

Misc26 Jul 2008 02:13 pm

It’s a cactus pipe, or so the info says. I don’t see it. It looks more like a frog pipe to me:

Why would you want a cactus pipe or a frog pipe anyway?

I like the old fashioned corncob pipe myself, not that I’ve ever used one.

The only pipe I’ve ever had use for is this one:

On the other hand, this one is an actual cactus pipe, by which I mean a peace pipe made from cactus:

I don’t know what makes this one a pipe, since it looks more like a corndog, but you know, I don’t need to know everything.

Photography26 Jul 2008 10:37 am

Yesterday I blogged a purple-throated flower and wondered how deep in I could peer. Today we find out the answer.

Uncarina peltata

It turns out you can look pretty deep into that purple throated flower.

Poetry26 Jul 2008 08:05 am

Or garden-blogging is like digging with a spade. Or something. Anyway, here’s a limerick for you:

There once was a girl name of Dotto
She planted a cactus named Noto
While watering one day
A bloom came her way
And also she won the State Lotto!

Another girl had a different experience:

There once was a girl name of Dottie
She planted a cactus very naughty
Her Mom looked away
Shocked in her own way
Cause the cactus was so very bawdy!

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