Friday, September 30, 2011

Opuntia cuttings from a fellow collector

For a plant collector, there are few things more exciting than getting one of these in the mail:

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The box I received yesterday contained opuntia (prickly pear) cuttings from a fellow collector in South Carolina. Opuntia cuttings root quite reliably during the warmer months of the year, so propagation is usually as easy as it gets.

The two species I received were Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ and Opuntia pusilla. Both are new to me, and neither is very common here in California.

Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ is not only virtually spineless, it’s also one of the very few prickly pears that has practically no glochids—the bundles of hair-like spines on the areoles that tend to come off at even the slightest touch and get stuck in your skin. In the photo below you can clearly see the areoles—the darker colored round bumps—as well as the absence of glochids.

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Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’  cuttings

Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana,’ sometimes called tiger tongue prickly pear, seems to be native to the southwestern U.S. or northern Mexico (the experts can’t seem to agree), and it’s quite cold-hardy. Some references say it can tolerate temperatures as low as 5°F. An adult clump can be up to 3 ft. high by 5-6 ft. wide (check out this beautiful photo). In late spring/early summer it produces deep yellow flowers as seen here.

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Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ cuttings

The most important thing to do when receiving cactus cuttings is to let the separation point callus over to prevent soil-borne bacteria from entering the cutting and causing an infection. The cuttings I received had a callus already so I stuck them in small pots filled with completely dry soil—in this case a free-draining mix of perlite, decomposed granite, and potting soil (that’s what I had on hand).

These pots will be kept dry for a month. Then I will check to see if any roots have developed; if so, I will water very sparingly. The goal is to provide only the amount of water the plant is able to take up, which isn’t very much at first when roots just begin to form. Too much moisture would inevitably lead to rot.

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Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ cuttings in their pots

The second cutting was from Opuntia pusilla, native to the coastal sand dunes of the Carolinas and the Gulf Coast panhandle of Florida. This is a very small prickly pear, with segments that break off very easily and attach themselves to whoever or whatever may come through its habitat, for example animals—maybe hitching a ride is its primary mode of propagation? Its growth habit appears to be creeping, rather than upright. The flowers are canary yellow, as seen here. I couldn’t find much information about cold hardiness, but it probably hardy into the high teens.

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Opuntia pusilla cutting

The Opuntia pusilla cutting went in small terracotta pot filled with the same free-draining soil mix and will receive the same treatment as the ‘Ellisiana’ cuttings.

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All three cuttings in their new homes

As a gardener, I would now figure out where to plant these prickly pears. As a collector, practical issues don’t matter.

I’m definitely a collector now!

3 comments:

  1. I found you through Candy's blog. It's always fun finding another succulent enthusiast! Looking foward to reading more of your posts.

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  2. Mandy, welcome! I'm so glad you found me through Candy's blog. If you have time, there are 249 other posts to go through :-). I was at Succulent Gardens in Castroville, CA today and will blog about it tomorrow.

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  3. Yahoo! You are definitely a collector. Hey you didn't find me. I thought of standing up and yelling your name but my husband said not too. Hee hee! I had a white baseball cap on. I saw a couple of people that might be you but not sure. It was awesome wasn't it. It's going to take me longer to get the post up. LOL

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