Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First wave of cactus flowers

Cactus enthusiasts love their prickly friends year round, but even people who normally shy away from plants that can hurt you stop dead in their tracks when they see a blooming cactus. There is something magical about flowers emerging from amidst the spines, especially when they are in hues so vibrant they border on the psychedelic.

While my cactus collection is quite small, I have a handful of cacti that are blooming their heads off right now. Unlike annuals or perennials which often bloom for weeks if not months on end, many cactus flowers are only open for a few days. There are exceptions, like the mammillarias I’ll show you first. They have been blooming for a week now.

This is a Mammillaria spinosissima, sometimes called “red-headed Irishman.” Its flowers are small, but they form a perfect ring around the top of the cactus.

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This is another mammillaria, Mammillaria bocensis. It has fewer flowers, but they are slightly larger, and quite attractive with their darker magenta stripes.

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Next is Thelocactus bicolor, or “glory of Texas.” Typically this cactus has pinkish-magenta flowers, but mine is all white. The flowers are huge, about 4 inches across, and are only open for one day.

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The genus Rebutia is known for being especially floriferous. My specimens are quite small, no more than three inches across, and seeing these stunning flowers emerge is quite a sight.

The first is Rebutia flavistyla, sometimes called “flame crown” after its orange flowers.

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Next is Rebutia krainziana whose flowers are a true red.

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The last rebutia in my collection that’s blooming right now is Rebutia albipilosa. It’s much hairier than the others, but the spines are soft and don’t hurt at all. Its flowers are a reddish orange—a mixture of the two colors above.

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Rebutias are very common. I bet even your local big box store has some. Mine live outside in the winter, but in colder areas they need protection from the frost.

The final cactus I want to show you today, Notocactus uebelmannianus, looked like this two days ago:

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When I checked this afternoon, I found this:

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The color is simply unreal.

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Looking ahead, some of my prickly pears (Opuntia sp.) are forming flower buds. At first it’s hard to tell if it’s a flower bud or just a new pad, but after a while it becomes obvious. The pointy buds are definitely emerging flowers.

                                                                                                                                       
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But the new pads on an opuntia can be every bit as beautiful as a flower—and even more intriguing.

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5 comments:

  1. These photos always get me jealous.

    At least one of my Opuntias is forming flower buds too! Like you I wasn't sure if they were pads or flowers at first, but now it's clear.

    It looks like you took a photo of *my* spineless Opuntia there! :-)

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    1. It *is* your spineless opuntia. We got them from the same source :-).

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  2. Wow! Pretty blooms. I really love the "red-headed Irishman".
    garden storage

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  3. Really beautiful, and beautifully photographed. The colors are so intense on cacti. Does O. microdaysis bloom for you?

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    1. My two small Opuntia microdasys 'Albata' bloomed last year and it looks like they will this year, too. Beautiful light yellow flowers, translucent like silk.

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