Contents Volume 23. No 3

Winter 2009


Editorial and more Trevor Wray
An Oxford Auction  David Kirkbright
Wind is a four-letter word Don Campbell
Spring and Summer Seven Roland Tebbenham

Sclerocactus polyancistrus flower

Cover picture: To a bee this view into a flower of Sclerocactus polyancistrus would be irresistible. ‘Free pollen this way!’ The plant was on a hillside in California’s Death Valley National Park. At the same habitat were flowering plants of Echinocereus engelmannii which must share the same pollinators. You can click here or the image for more information.






EDITORIAL and more.....

Welcome to this edition of Northants News—the NMK’s Branch magazine.

Proof readers

Northants News is proof read first by the FL (Sue) and then by Roland. Hopefully they find most of my mistakes though I sometimes wonder if some creep through, or worse, the cat walks over the keyboard after the corrections have been made.

The FL sees the silly spellings, bad grammar and everything an English teacher should notice. That leaves the more technical stuff to Roland who must spend ages thumbing through his various cactus and succulent texts.

The summer edition of Northants News (20.2) produced some interesting feedback from our proof readers in Colin’s article on Hoodia gordonii.

Sue red-penned…

Masson is commemorated in the genus Massonia Thunberg ex Houttuyn

…with the comment ‘nonsense?’ Please notice that she did not enter ‘nonsense!’, so she was not that sure. Colin was giving the full author citation for the genus, necessary for botanists but only really serious hobbyists.

Roland picked up the inconsistency that ‘gordonii’ had only one ‘i’ on some occasions. Both the print (originally 1798) that prompted the article and my copy of White and Sloane’s ‘The Stapelieae’ (1937) had the spelling ‘gordoni’. The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature was brought in to sort some inconsistencies in plant naming and I read in my Stern’s Botanical Latin (I knew I would have a use for that some day) that it…

recommends that when a new specific or infraspecific epithet is taken from the name of a man it should be formed in the following manner:

(a) When the name of the person ends in a vowel, the letter i is added (thus glazioui from Glaziou, bureaui from Bureau), except when the name ends in a, when e is added (thus balansae from Balansa).

(b) When the name ends in a consonant, the letters ii are added (thus ramondii from Ramond), except when the name ends in -er, when i is added (thus kerneri from Kerner).

This rule, (and others), became retrospective and an awful lot of plant name endings had to be changed. So ‘ii’ after ‘gordon’ for this one. You might think that ‘gordonii’ should have a capital letter, (my spell checker certainly thinks so), but this practise was stopped for specific names also in the International Code.

So there is a little lesson in botanical rules and regs, But we should not forget especially a thanks to our proof readers Sue and Roland.

BTW none of us noticed that my print in this article was 11 ft (340 cm) should have been mms!

What’s in a name?

At a branch where I was giving a talk, a member asked me about my attitude to the changing names of cacti. This could be a contentious issue. Now I am not sure how being a visiting speaker giving a very general talk on some habitats suddenly makes me an expert on taxonomy but you feel obligated to respond. I assumed this was a fairly new member to the society (as no sensible ‘expert’ was going to be asking me the same question), I said that I thought you can call them what you like but that if you had a very wrong name you might enter your plant in the wrong class in a show. Not a great problem for a beginner but perhaps some embarrassment for the ‘experts’. I just keep the original name on my plants unless I found they were the wrong species.

My considered answer to an expert would start the same. However we should really be heading towards a consensus on the naming of plants. The taxonomic trend seems to be less genera and fewer species. Fine. However cultivators like to see the differences, not the similarities. More spines, less spines, white spines, dwarfs… these are the sort of plants we seek and then there are the flower variations. Books by John Pilbeam support the concept of cultivar names for these desirable collector’s plants. Recent articles by Gordon Rowley in our journal and by Bruce Bayer in Haworthiad support this idea.

My considered answer to a commercial grower (or an amateur who sells plants) would be please ensure that your plants have a valid correct name or better still the name that conforms to the Cactus Lexicon names. It’s simple.

The Cacti of Guatemala

I was looking at a copy of the recent book on the cacti of Guatemala. I was looking because the book was in Spanish. Here’s a little tester: How many Guatemalan cacti do you know? Well, there are seven species of Disocactus (don’t get excited I said Disocactus, not Discocactus) and six of Epiphyllum. In fact the cacti are heavily weighted towards epiphytes in general. Loads of forest and rain spring to mind. More likely to be grown, at least by Mammillaria freaks, are the five kinds that are native and when I ask where Mammillaria columbiana grows, you will answer Guatemala! It also grows in Columbia of course. The habitat picture of Mammillaria eichlamii shows it is a pendant species not suited to a pot unless you want the set. For the record there are a Nopalea and an Opuntia guatemalensis, neither of which look greenhouse worthy.

Probably the most stunning Guatemalan species is the ‘Queen of the Night’ Selenicereus grandiflorus. This used to be widely grown when I first joined the Society but I guess its size and need for heat would count against it these days. Does anyone local grow and especially flower this?

Reference: Mario Pérez ‘Las Cactáceas de Guatemala’ 2008

The Cactus Forum

I just know you are all logging into the Cactus Forum. I try to keep my usage within Government recommended health limits. i.e. No more than 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It becomes compulsive and I am sure that if I looked at all the postings I would become an expert on C&S almost instantly; well maybe it might take a few days. I suppose the virtual reality world of C&S is fine and there are plenty of images of high quality on the net, including the Forum, but when it comes to the crunch, to actually see the cultivated plants, especially in flower or wild plants in habitat, there is a special sort of pleasure and no amount of clicking on the internet will replace it.

I am a feely-touchy sort of person when it comes to our plants. Is this OK?

Branch Visits

I went to Manchester Branch the other day. The talk didn’t interest me much. I have heard it before (I was the speaker) but there were some interesting things seen and notes taken. On a side table there were some remarkably cheap plants for sale, raised by a branch member. Now cheap plants are not necessarily attractive but here was a fair batch of things I had never heard of. Like many growers I find new plants interesting, and at these prices I am prepared to give them a try.

First in the frame is Aloe ‘Cha Cha’ ISI 93-21, a complex Bleck hybrid involving several choice, dwarf Aloes. Not a new plant to me but the first time I had seen this plant, long on my want list, for sale. Yes, please!

Then there was a pair of Mammillarias. ‘What Trev buying Mammillarias!’ you say. I had never heard of Mammillaria yoloxis and M. terontle but they were just too cheap to resist. Mammillaria yoloxis turned out to be a ‘new’ species. An awful lot of new species turn out to be new names for old species and this seems to apply especially to Mammillaria.

M. terontle yielded nothing on a Google search but yet the name seemed familiar. I searched the synonyms at the back of Pilbeam’s Mammillaria book. Nothing. Then I searched the main index and bingo! An actual species. Well a species in Pilbeam. The plant name is actually spelt tezontle (which explains why Google couldn't find it) and the plant itself is a real curiosity. Discovered in 1989 and described in 1995 it is a threatened plant in its Mexico habitat. The type locality, on a solidified frothy lava rock locally called ‘tezontle’, was being bulldozed for road-building. I read it up in The Cactus File and the US Journal. Now I know more I can see that it is not the most exciting Mammillaria ever. (Since writing this it has flowered, miffy, whitish small apologies for Mammillaria flowers.) It is closely related to M. wildii and M. crinita (squinny yellow flowers) and indeed the New Cactus Lexicon lumps it with M. crinita ssp. leucantha. So there we have it: probably not worth growing in the Wray greenhouse and I will donate it to the raffle. As I type this I reckon the name was familiar because I have already grown it (and killed it or given it away). But that tezontle, that sounds like a really interesting rock. Porous volcanic lava… a fascinating concept.

Many of the other plants I bought were caudiforms. Coccinia hirtella was a new one on me, a member of the cucumber family from Natal with a lump on the bottom, a woody upright and climbing stems with tendrils. The internet shows bright red fruits. If it grows it will probably run amok. I’ll have to see…

Ceropegia floribunda had already a 2cm caudex and climbing/trailing stems with small white marbled leaves. Reminiscent of C. linearis (and did you know the well known C. woodii should be called C. linearis ssp. woodii. That’s if you don’t call it the sweet-heart plant!) C. floribunda is the twining sister species to the better known C. conrathii according to the IHSP and apparently comes from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana so might not need too much heat. Anyway it can take its chances.

Tetradenia riparia sounds like a contradiction in terms; a riverside (riparian) succulent? The website at Plantzafrica provided information on my new purchase; ‘With English common names of Misty Plume Bush, and Ginger Bush, …an encounter with this plant in flower in the wintry, dry bush is most surprising. There is the impression of soft lilac mist on bare grey branches, quite incongruous with the dryness of the surrounding vegetation.’ Almost poetry. However the description went on to mention growth of 80 cm a year up to 3m (10 of our Middle English feet) and flowering in the first year. This could well be a ‘will it fit my greenhouse’ scenario. The plant is a member of the Labiatae, (these days called the Lamianeae, but still the mint), family and like many others has scented leaves, vaguely peppermint to me. Male and female flowers are on separate plants, it seems that the male flower spikes provide a better mist effect on the Misty Plume Bush, should my plant ever get that far. The Zulu people infuse a tea for relief of chest complaints, stomach ache and malaria. Inhaling the scent of the crushed leaves apparently also relieves headaches. A website I found listed pharmaceutical uses. I suppose that would make use of my prunings. The IHSP didn’t add much new except that the plant was originally described by Hochstetter (don’t you cactus people get excited, I said Hochstetter not Hochstätter) and had yards of AKAs (I mean synonyms).

I also had a second small Adenia spinosa, Sinningia tubiflora, (what us old guys used to call Rechsteinia – what you still do? A bulletin board posted ‘…WONderfully fragrant long white tubular flowers are worth giving it what it wants.) Mestoklema macrorhizum and Delosperma harazianum. The last two are mesembs with gnarled bonsai potential, the Delosperma is listed as from Yemen, so perhaps not hardy here.

All in all a pretty good day out really.

Oh, did it rain in Manchester? Yes, of course it did, but not a lot. It saved that for the 160 miles drive home.

Next year…

As the Ed of NN I have privileged information on next year’s branch programme. Looks like some good things coming. Early in the year there is Doug Donaldson on Brazil, Colombia & Venezuela and Bob Potter on Soqotra (though this computer prefers Socotra). More great speakers in the pipeline programme guru Roland tells me.

Naturally we will all be sowing seeds, taking cuttings and looking forward to the first flowering of that new plant. Some of us will be privileged to visit succulents in their habitats. We can all visit the collections of other members.

Whatever… just have a great growing year!



Out with the old …


new BCSS badge

… and in with the new. 

David sent me the new logo with a request that we use it on the website and in the mag. (it's the one above on the left. Old is on the right.) That’s no problem. New, modern, except… it doesn’t tell you what we are. I could tell everyone we belong to the Global Warming Branch of the Yorkshire Rose Society. ‘Spect you knew that the white rose represents the foundation of our cactus society, in Yorkshire since you asked. Two of the earliest badges are on the left. That's a strange one... 'The Formerly Yorkshire Cactus Society'! However it appeared on our Journal for a few months.

Hands up! Who remembers them?





Northampton and Milton Keynes Branch of the B.C.S.S.

Back issues of the NMK Branch magazine

Northants News Volume 20.2

Northants News Volume 20.1

Northants News Volume 19.3

Northants News Volume 19.2

Northants News Volume 19.1

Northants News Volume 18.3

Northants News Volume 18.2