It was magnificent while it lasted

This past weekend was filled with cactus excitement. Four of my cacti, fairly plain-looking most of the year, flowered. Actually, “flowered” is too lame a word to capture the magnificence of this event. “Exploded” is more like it. It was a floral firework display, and like any firework, it was short-lived. The flowers opened just twice, then it was all over. It must take a tremendous amount of energy to produce flowers almost as large as the stem itself!

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Unidentified Echinopsis (scarlet-fading-to-coral flower)

All four cacti are Echinopsis hybrids. Echinopsis is a large genus of South American cacti noted for their large and colorful flowers. They range from small globular cacti to tree-sized species. There are many Echinopsis hybrids with flowers in myriad shades of red, purple, yellow, and cream. I think not even experts are able to tell them apart unless they are in bloom, maybe not even then. To me, it doesn’t really matter what variety they are. All I care about are the fantastic flowers.

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Unidentified Echinopsis (scarlet-fading-to-coral flower)

The first echinopsis, seen above and in the next six photos, was unlabeled when I won it in a raffle at the Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society. The flower was scarlet when it first opened up but by day 2 it had faded to a coral color.

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Unidentified Echinopsis (scarlet-fading-to-coral flower)

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Unidentified Echinopsis (scarlet-fading-to-coral flower)

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Unidentified Echinopsis (scarlet-fading-to-coral flower)

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Unidentified Echinopsis (scarlet-fading-to-coral flower)

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Unidentified Echinopsis (scarlet-fading-to-coral flower)

The next photo shows the unidentified scarlet-then-coral echinopsis from above (on the right) and a much smaller echinopsis labeled ‘Johnson Hybrid’ (on the left). ‘Johnson Hybrid’ was a true red on both days.

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LEFT: Echinopsis ‘Johnson Hybrid’
RIGHT: Unidentified echinopsis (scarlet-fading-to-coral flower)

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Echinopsis ‘Johnson Hybrid’

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Echinopsis ‘Johnson Hybrid’

In the next photo you see ‘Johnson Hybrid’ from above (on the left) and Echinopsis huascha var. rubriflora (on the right). Rubriflora opened a salmon color and turned to pale fuschia on day 2.

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LEFT: Echinopsis ‘Johnson Hybrid’
RIGHT:
Echinopsis huascha var. rubriflora

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Echinopsis huascha var. rubriflora

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Echinopsis huascha var. rubriflora

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Echinopsis huascha var. rubriflora

The last one, simply labeled Echinopsis huascha, opened white and stayed white. I’ve had this one for four five years and it’s turned into a cylinder 11 inches tall by 6 inches wide. Interestingly, the flowers were nowhere near as large as on the much smaller cacti above. It could be because this particular specimen only gets a few hours of direct sun. Still, there’s something very alluring about white flowers—plus I don’t have to try to come up with a color adjective that best describes the hue of the flowers (fuscescent or crotal, anyone?).

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Echinopsis huascha (white flowers)

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Echinopsis huascha (white flowers)

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Echinopsis huascha (white flowers)

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Echinopsis huascha (white flowers)

In our climate echinopsis can stay outside all winter. In fact, people plant them out, which results in larger plants with more flowers.

Comments

  1. Are you considering planting some of yours out? Beautiful! I never appreciated cactus flowers until I saw my Opuntias flower last year.

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    Replies
    1. I'm trying to figure out the logistics. I have quite a few cacti that would do better in the ground. But space in the sun is at a premium in our garden. I know that sounds ironic considering we live in a very sunny climate...

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  2. Replies
    1. Gone already.

      It's amazing that evolution turned out that way. The odds of cactus flowers being pollinated in such a short period time don't seem that high to me. However, the time window must be long enough to ensure the perpetuation of the species.

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  3. Amazing pictures. I hope mine bloom as pretty.

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    Replies
    1. I'm sure they will. Even occasional neglect hasn't prevented mine from blooming.

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  4. Uff those things are gorgeous!

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