Over-the-top cactus flower extravaganza (1 of 2)

Cactus flowers are as colorful as a rainbow and almost as ephemeral. With some exceptions, they only last a day or two before fading. That’s understandable, considering how much energy it must take to produce flowers that are sometimes larger than the body of the cactus itself.

I have a few cacti myself, both in the ground and in pots, and they produce a reliable succession of flowers through spring and summer. But that pales in comparison to my friend Justin’s collection. I’ve blogged about his Bay Area garden before, and my posts (here and here) gave you brief glimpses of his flowering cacti. This year, Justin has chronicled the many waves of cactus flowers in his garden, and he has agreed to share his favorite photos with Succulents and More. Get ready for an extravaganza unlike anything you’ve seen before!

Initially, I wanted to order Justin’s photos by flower color, but he thought it would be better to arrange them by genus to show the variation within a given genus.

Because there are so many photos, I’ll break this post into two installments. In part 2, Justin shares how he grows his cacti. Clearly, he has perfected his recipe!

One of several planter boxes Justin built for his cactus and succulent collections

A note on taxonomy: Cactus taxonomy is in constant flux. Some genera are a mess. I have a hard time keeping up so I’m following the names commonly used by cactus growers and collectors. Sometimes they don’t line up with what taxonomists use—for example, Rebutia and Sulcorebutia have been subsumed into Echinopsis by taxonomists, but few aficionados have bought into that. One expert merged Notocactus into Parodia and another pulled it out again. You could get whiplash following all the developments.

Astrophytum
Star-shaped cacti native to Mexico into southern Texas, much beloved by collectors for their myriad forms.

Astrophytum caput-medusae. Clearly related to the other members of the genus based on flower morphology, but the body of this cactus is completely different from any other Astrophytum. More than anything, it looks like a bunch of dead twigs coming out of the ground. Only known from one location in the Mexican state of Nuevo León and originally described as Digitostigma caput-medusae.

Astrophytum caput-medusae

Astrophytum myriostigma


Austrocylindropuntia
Prickly pear and cholla relatives from South America, formerly included in the genus Opuntia.

Austrocylindropuntia verschaffeltii

Austrocylindropuntia verschaffeltii


×Echinobivia
×Echinobivia is an intergeneric hybrid between Echinopsis and Lobivia.

×Echinobivia hybrid

×Echinobivia hybrid

Echinocactus
Like Ferocactus, Echinocactus are commonly referred to as barrel cacti. The most prominent species is the golden barrel (see below).

Echinocactus grusonii, the iconic golden barrel

Echinocactus grusonii


Echinocereus
A genus of small cylindrical cacti native to the U.S. and Mexico. It includes the lace cactus (E. reichenbachii), hedgehog cacti (like E. rigidissimus and E. stramineus), and claret cup cacti (like E. coccineus and E. triglochidiatus). The flowers of the claret cup cacti are among the most long-lived cactus flowers, often lasting five days or more.

Echinocereus adustus

Echinocereus adustus

Echinocereus coccineus, one of several species referred to as claret cup

Echinocereus coccineus

Echinocereus coccineus

Echinocereus enneacanthus

Echinocereus enneacanthus

Echinocereus laui

Echinocereus laui

Echinocereus ×lloydii aka Echinocereus ×roetteri, a natural hybrid between Echinocereus coccineus and Echinocereus dasyacanthus found primarily in southern Texas and neighboring northern Mexico.

Echinocereus ×lloydii

Echinocereus rigidissimus var. albiflora, the white-flowering form of the rainbow hedgehog cactus below

Echinocereus rigidissimus var. albiflora

Echinocereus rigidissimus var. rubrispinus, the rainbow hedgehog cactus

Echinocereus rigidissimus var. rubrispinus

Echinocereus rigidissimus var. rubrispinus

Echinocereus rigidissimus var. rubrispinus

Echinocereus rigidissimus var. rubrispinus

Echinocereus viridiflorus


Echinopsis
Echinopsis is a large catch-all genus that includes everything from the small peanut cactus (E. chamaecereus) to the 25-ft. Argentine saguaro (E. terscheckii). More recently, the genus Trichocereus has been reestablished so tall columnar cactus like the Argentine saguaro and the San Pedro cactus (E. pachinoi) are now back in Trichocereus. Echinopsis often have massive flowers, among the showiest in any cactus genus, and intensive crossing has given us untold hybrids with fantastical colors and patterns. Check out hybridizer Brent Wigand’s web site for some examples.

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis ‘Rose Quartz’

Echinopsis ‘Rainbow Bursts’

Echinopsis ‘Flying Saucer’

Echinopsis ‘Flying Saucer’

Echinopsis chamaecereus hybrid

Echinopsis chamaecereus hybrid

Echinopsis chamaecereus hybrid

Echinopsis chamaecereus hybrid

Echinopsis oxygona


Eriosyce
Eriosyce is a genus of small cactus native to Peru, Chile, and Argentina. It now includes a number of former genera such as Neochilenia and Neoporteria.

Eriosyce heinrichiana

Eriosyce heinrichiana var. setosiflora


Ferocactus
Ferocactus are the classic barrel cacti, cultivated for their shape, size, and often ornamental spines. The flowers are generally on the small side but can be quite colorful.

Ferocactus latifolius

Ferocactus latifolius


Gymnocalycium
South American cacti beloved by collectors for their ornamental bodies and often large flowers.

Gymnocalycium mesopotamicum

Gymnocalycium vatteri

Gymnocalycium vatteri


Leuchtenbergia
A genus with only one species, L. principis, commonly called the agave cactus. It’s easy to see why.

Leuchtenbergia principis

Leuchtenbergia principis


Lobivia
Lumped into Echinopsis at one point, Lobivia is now again considered a valid genus. These are mostly small globose cactus from the Andean plateau.

Lobivia sp.


Click here to go to part 2: Mammillaria to Tunilla.


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Comments

  1. Wow. With Justin's help you may just convince me to invest in more flowering cacti, Gerhard. I never thought I'd see a cactus jewel garden but that's what this is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think potted cacti would be a natural addition to your garden. I can see them take center stage on your patio when they're in flower.

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  2. Wow! incredible photos. Cacti have cool forms and spines, etc. but I would never call them beautiful until they flower. The colours and size of the blooms in relation to the plants is stunning. As a neophyte I find this switching of genus names very frustrating. No sooner do you learn a name and then it gets changed. Grrr.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even more seasoned cactus aficionados get annoyed at the name changes. But it happens in other plant groups, too.

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  3. This post is a wonderful resource for beginning cactus enthusiasts. The photos are outstanding and the plants are beautifully grown and lovingly cared for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Justin has a green thumb AND takes great photos.

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  4. Thank you for these fabulous photos. I can only hope my own plants will grace me with such fields of blooms one day! The pale coral-colored flowers of one of the echinopsis hybrids is stunning; I haven't seen that color often.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Echinopsis are hard to beat when in flower. And once they're a bit older, many of them actually flower multiple times from spring into early summer.

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  5. wonderful overview of these blooming beauties! Thank you both, grower and blogger!

    ReplyDelete

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