Contents Volume 23. No 1

Spring 2012

Editorial and more.. Trevor Wray

A few friends, Warren Withers and Jim Lewis 

Doug and Trev

Thelocactus Repair                   



Trevor Wray

Mammillaria bocasana 'Fred' 

Doug Rowland

Three more difficult species to grow  Doug Rowland
Sedums for the Garden  Trevor Wray

Cover picture: Sulcorebutias are easy to grow. I have many that live with the Sedums and Sempervivums in a cold frame kept covered in the winter months. The species illustrated is Sulcorebutia crispata and hidden beneath those sumptuous flowers is a plant densely covered in pectinate white spines. Recommended!


EDITORIAL and more.....

Welcome to the Spring edition of NN. 

So what’s been happening?

More meally bugs

I was deadheading some plants from the Rebutia Group. It is a tedious chore for autumn but the blooming things will insist on blooming prolifically in the spring. In the previous issue I mentioned that I had not seen a mealy bug in my collection for some years; I should have touched wood because a brown spined Sulcorebutia rauschii had a couple or three. Ouch!

It appeared to be the only affected plant and I reached for the handy sprayer. On second thoughts it seemed a bit pointless using systemic insecticide when the plants weren’t growing so I mixed up a large sprayer of the quick knockdown stuff and went round the collection.

Next morning the greenhouses stank and there was a surprise – the mealy bugs had crawled out of their hiding places to die. It appeared there were several affected plants nearby so I hope I halted the epidemic. And I also hope the critters died in agony!

Old name for an old plant

I have a plant of Aporocactus martianus on a shelf in a greenhouse. The plant was an early acquisition so pushing on forty years old but now sadly neglected; I don’t think I have repotted it for ten, fifteen even twenty years and it had many dead branches and rarely flowered. You might be more familiar with the rat’s-tail cactus, Aporocactus flagelliformis, and, like this, A. martianus is better suited to a hanging basket.

I decided to treat ‘mart’ to a new hanging home and some fresh compost to bring him back to his former glory. Then perhaps a new label, so I’d better check the spelling. Now here’s the point of this story – Aporocactus is not in the New Cactus Lexicon. In fact it is now considered a Disocactus, (though my computer thinks this should be Discocactus). My curiosity aroused I looked for pictures in the picture-book NCL and Anderson’s ‘The Cactus Family’. Yikes! Not only was Aporocactus a Disocactus but Phyllocactus was one too! Now I have to explain that the old Aporocactus was a scrambling spiny plant of rocky places and the old Phyllocactus was a leafy epiphytic jungle plant. They were crossed to form spectacular intergeneric hybrids and I still have a few though I have lost their names. So the present classification explains how the strange ‘Aporophyllum’ hybrids were possible.

Incidentally Disocactus martianus is pretty hardy and mine has survived quite hard frost while dry. I suspect that the leafy species will not be so tolerant.

The Deceiving Crassula

I grow several clones of Crassula deceptor; all are attractive plants and when grown well have won prizes in classes in the Crassula group or Adromischus sub-group at shows.

A newly acquired form surprised me by having yellow flowers; surely all my other forms are white flowered? I reached for Rowley’s ‘Crassula’ book; it was nearest. Yes, white flowers but wait…

Although the picture appeared to show a white flowered plant the description said ‘creamy white’ and looking more closely at images and plants I could see that the petals (more correctly the corolla) only slightly protruded from the sepals which are white like the leaves. When I pulled out the IHSP Crassulaceae volume and Tolkien’s ‘Revision of Crassula’ (the ultimate reference) all was revealed; this very variable species has petals cream to yellow. So I had a yellow flowered one as well as several cream.

While I was taking photos I used my macro lens to take the ultimate close-up of the leaf texture. It is very strange and each black dot is a specialised hole, called a hydathode, that Tolkien proved was able to take up water. An interesting desert adaptation.

The name deceptor means deceiver and refers to the plant resembling the quartz pebbles in which it often grows on hills in Southern Namibia and the Northern Cape of South Africa. Crassula deceptrix (female deceiver), C. cornuta (referring to horn like leaves) and C. arta are all synonyms so you can get your labels changed now. (Or not!) 

I wondered what arta meant and the internet lead me to a page of acronyms. I knew ‘Association of Retail Travel Agents’ but I rather like ‘Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology’ and ‘Apple Real Time Architecture’, (which is not about apples or architecture as we know it). After being side-tracked many more times (Arta is both a Welsh boy’s name and a Persian girl’s name), I found the Latin meaning ‘narrow, close, tight’, alluding to either the way the plant grows to the ground or how the leaves fit on the stem.

Leaf detail of Crassula deceptor

Leaf detail of Crassula deceptor. Click here for a better image.

In cultivation they require all the light you can give them, fresh air and careful watering. They will tolerate some frost. Like many plants from the winter rainfall area they grow and look their best in autumn, flowering in November. The need for watering late in the season can lead to botrytis and rapid death, so I always propagate young plants. Cuttings root in days in September in moist compost and in a year make sturdy plants.


I was at Jeff and Diana’s at the end of January for a coffee and a gossip. Apparently the seed distribution was now just a trickle and the other succulents were largely sold out. I was curious to see what the BCSS membership didn’t want to buy.

Straight off there were a lot of Ihlenfeldtia vanzylii packets left. What on earth is Ihlenfeldtia you might say. Well I did and I rushed home to see what this plant was that no one wanted to raise from seed. I found the plant is much better known as a Cheiridopsis and is a ‘stone plant’ from quartz patches in Bushmanland, SA. “Easily propagated from seeds and cuttings” my copy of ‘Vygies’ informed me. I still had a couple from a sowing 20 odd years ago. Since Ihlenfeldtia was only invented in 1993 they are naturally called Cheiridopsis.

Strangely there was another choice vanzylii still left and this one was a Dinteranthus. So Lithops-like it was once classified with them. They have tiny seeds which are tricky to raise compared with Lithops. I once had many but now am down to just one. Perhaps I ought to buy a packet!

I suppose I’d better complete the set; there is also Conophytum calculus subsp. vanzylii and Antimima vanzylii, (both mesembs), Pachydactylus vanzylii and Torulopsis vanzylii. These last are not found in our Guide to Shows though they sound like they should be; Pachydactylis is a gecko (or a lizard to you and I) and Torulopsis is now classified as Candida and is a fungus. So that’s everything you need to know about vanzylii!

English Latin names

My sister says ‘feeyay’ for a very expensive sort of steak. Very poash. There is a fair bit of variation in the pronunciation of cactus and succulent names and some are definitely geographical and some class or educationally influenced. My straw polls, taken around the country, show that generally Peedicactus is the southern and Pediocactus the northern pronunciation for the American cactus. You will want to know that probably the short ’e’ is correct agreeing with the Greek derivation of the name.

Some posh and educated people say ‘Alow-ey’ and ‘Bulbine-ey’. Could this be correct? I ran it past our resident botanist, Colin. No, he says Aloe, (and he should know), and Bulbine.

Use of the correct Latin name for a plant is supposed to remove all possibility of confusion but chatting to foreigners I can often hardly recognise the names I know very well. Sulcorebutia langeri can rhyme with the ladies underwear, but should it? It is a Latin name (after Andreas Langer) not French. Spanish speakers insist on the Spanish pronunciation of all South American places or people used in names. So H is silent, J is H, ll is yeh, etc. One thing for certain is that our middle English pronunciation does not get you very far outside of middle England.  And even in Middle England the 'ch' of Echeveria and similar seems to be pronounced hard (kirk) or soft (church) almost equally. Take your pick!

Little known facts

Normanbokea valdeziana celebrates a couple of people, Norman Boke, (bet you guessed that one), the American cactus botanist and Mrs. L. Valdez who was the wife of the Swiss engineer Arthur Möller working in Mexico. He sent cacti to Switzerland in the 1920s. They are both celebrated in the name Mammillaria moeller-valdeziana. We won’t remember Norman for his cactus however as it is now a Turbinicarpus (top-shaped fruit).


Not knowing what to expect from Hugh’s talk at the AGM on Nepal I told the FL. ‘I am not sure if there will be any plants but I am sure there will be no cacti.

‘I am sure it will be a much better talk without cacti’ . She replied.

The FL seems to be missing the point of a cactus society. But it was an entertaining talk including some plants and an Agave americana. Now there’s a plant that gets everywhere!  

Some plants I once loved

You will have read of an outbreak of western flower trips on my mesembs. I had a square foot or two of especially affected plants but seemed to have controlled the problem. Until this year…

Several plants lost vigour and turned a dull grey before being pronounced dead. Some were quite nice plants, show plants of some age. However the symptoms did not resemble WFT.

I thought long and hard on this one. My conclusions have not been supported by any real evidence. I decided that I had picked up a spray can of Tumbleweed or systemic herbicide instead of Pravado, (systemic insecticide). (The packs I have here are both bright yellow.) A rather fine Japanese tuberculate form of Faucaria which had been adversely affected by WFT was at the centre of the demise. Did I give this a burst of insecticide (or actually herbicide) just for luck?

I am not sure. I do know that as I threw out the dead plants, new seedlings and purchases quickly filled the spaces. And as for the tuberculate Faucaria? Well it is still there; maybe dying slowly, certainly an offset does not look healthy and is not rooting, but I will remember to look carefully at the packet.


So Spring is here, the water will be flowing freely, but not from hoses in NN country we hear. Plants will be flowering; is it the best time of the year? YES it is!  

Good growing


P.S. Lots of Sedums in this issue. No connection with Ray Stephenson’s visit on publication day!


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

Back issues of the NMK Branch magazine

Northants News Volume 22.3
Northants News Volume 22.2
Northants News Volume 22.1
Northants News Volume 21.3