Contents of the Winter 2012 Northants News

                    The National Show 2                          Trevor Wray

A strange one at the National      

 (or 'Is Pygmaeocereus ever allowed in the Cereus Group?')

There is so much to see and do at the National. I was rushing round trying to identify outstanding plants to photograph and also snapping some to remember something about them. So… coming to the Cereus class there was a plant labelled as a Pygmaeocereus. Now I seem to remember that this genus is classified  in the Echinopsis Group for show purposes and I was right. Close scrutiny of the show card showed no indication that the judges thought this was NAS. (Not According to Schedule.) Surely our judges at National level would not have missed this? The plant did not have a prize card so its relevance in the class was perhaps academic. I snapped its picture to remind me to look it up on my return.

Pygmaeocereus densiaculeatus or Haageocereus lanugispinus or H.  tenuis

Above: Pygmaeocereus densiaculeatus or Haageocereus lanugispinus or even Haageocereus tenuis. Take your pick!

What did the learned tomes (and the internet) have to offer about Pygmaeocereus densiaculeatus?

My goodness; did this plant have a twisted taxonomic history!

On behalf of NN readers your Ed spent two hours trawling the internet and poring through musty journals. My large collection of German KuaS journals is missing 1975 with ‘Was ist Pygmaeocereus densiaculeatus?’. The article which would surely, I imagine, answer my queries. So back to the internet.

It appears that the plant was described as a Pygmaeocereus by Backeberg in 1963 in Descriptiones Cactacearum Novarum, a journal that Mrs Dell thinks is grossly misspelt. The plant was discovered by Ritter in 1957 at Pativilca on his travels in Peru. He described it as Haageocereus lanugispinus in the fourth volume of his ‘Kakteen in Suedamerika’. This was the  undescribed name (nomen nudum) it was called at his sister, Hilde(garde) Winter’s, nursery. (You know her from the plant Hildewintera or Winterocereus, now called Cleistocactus winteri so she got a mention regardless.) The name ‘lanuginosa’ means woolly spined, an appropriate name for this unusual plant. These days it is considered to be just a woolly spined form of Haageocereus tenuis.

The internet suggests that there is only one clone of H. lanugispinus which is often grown in a grafted, cristate form. Reversions of this give the finger-like joints which can be rooted (with difficulty) to give the form seen in the exhibit at the Show.

Naturally now the plant is a Haageocereus it was correctly entered in the Cleistocactus Subgroup. I see the grower was Ian Robinson so ‘spect he only calls it by this name to tease us.

A Roaring Trade at the National ! (A quick look round the trade stands at the Show)

Specimen cactus plants from Southfields

Left: Specimen plants from Southfields for those who can’t wait.

Right: Little Lithops lined up like soldiers for sale from Oak Dene.

Lithops from Oak Dene Nursery

Right You pays yer money and get all these Lithops julii. An interesting way to see the variation in the species. You can keep the pretty ones.



Lithops julii seedlings

Bushukan Bonsai at the BCSS National

Here we see that Bushukan Bonsai had all the exotic potting mixers you might want. 

But looking closely at the samples I wondered what the chocolate fudge was for.

Bushukan Bonsai at the BCSS National


Astrophytum senile var. aureum seedlings

Left Loose Astrophytum senile var. aureum by the pound from those nice Czech people and

 Right, you can get your grafting stock the same way, or perhaps grow a desert forest.


Seedling Echinopsis grafting stock

Bigger is Best (A baby Boojum comes first)

There was some discussion on the Forum that ‘bigger is best’ when it comes to showing. Since ‘maturity’ (which is a posh way of saying size), counts a fair bit when judging, size does matter. But this is only when all other factors are the same. Condition especially is important; then there is presentation, difficulty, rarity and freedom from pests.

When I saw Tina’s Idria columnaris at the National with a ‘First’ card I was amused. It was rather like a baby elephant is cute. I have seen this plant in habitat in Baja California, Mexico and this one was definitely a baby… but as I say, cute!

In habitat it normally grows as a single stem to 50 ft high. Some plants, perhaps with a damaged growing point, branch part way up and these are used as luxury nesting sites for birds. Others get bored with trying to be the tallest and bow gracefully over until the tops brush the ground. These are the easiest plants to photograph for close-ups of the flowers or to collect the seeds.

Right: Tina’s first prize Idria columnaris in the Didieria class at the 2012 National. 

Idria columnaris at the 2012 BCSS National 

seedling Idria columnaris in habitat

Idria columnaris in habitat

Tina’s plant originated from Doug in Kempston who bought it 30 years ago. No doubt it originated from habitat when this was legal and not even considered immoral. So it has had many years of cultivation in the UK. Perhaps in another 50 years it will be shoulder high. I wonder how old the habitat ones are.

I have never cultivated this species but observing them growing from the beaches high into the mountains would suggest they probably need ‘normal’ cactus treatment and might tolerate a little frost. Certainly it was snowing at one habitat I saw them, (in April). They make attractive seedlings in a bonsai fashion but the chances of you nurturing them to real maturity, and by that I mean flowering, is remote. Doug reports that it grew new branches but never increased in length in all the time he had it. We will watch Tina’s Idria with interest.

Little and large - two Idria columnaris in habitat in Baja, California. The 'small' one is about a yard across. The branched mature plant is unusual and has a hawk’s nest.

Final Report from the Show (That will be it for another four years.)

As I was packing up, I was able to snap a few images of other exhibitors hauling their monster plants away. Literally- some were on wheeled trolleys.

The giant Opuntia clavarioides that won Best Cactus was carried out on a made-to-measure stretcher by two strong guys. Three strong guys then manhandled it into the back of an estate car, (rear seats down), where it took up half the space.

When I got home it was time to look through the 628 pictures I had taken. (Not 628 different views I hasten to add, some were duplicates to allow for light and colour levels.) 

Mind those backs! Those monster plants are returned to their homes. Perhaps to be trundled out for the next National. Only four years to wait! 

Obregonia denegrii

Among them was an image of a superb Obregonia denegrii. I don’t especially remember the plant but from the image it appeared to have been second in its class. I think that this was the plant I would really have liked to have grown myself. Over the years I have raised them from seed and small seedlings and over the years they have faded away within a year or two. I doubt I have ever grown one bigger than 3 inches. This one was simply superb. I suppose someone will now tell me it’s grafted! Anyway, stimulated by this specimen I bought a pair of youngsters just half an inch across. Hope springs eternal...


Left: The Ed’s most envied plant at the Show. An ancient Obregonia denegrii. And it only came second in its class.

From the Keyboard of a * BOT

I have heard that a new Guide to Shows is to be produced to follow on from the ninth edition we are using for this year’s National Show. This will be introduced in time for the next show. Your intrepid reporter understands that in the spirit of fair competition two new rules will be included.

Rule 94a: New labelling requirements will be introduced to include a barcode to ensure the taxon is accepted by the New Cactus Lexicon. Should a plant be presented without a properly marked label it will be marked NAS.

Rule 94b: Prize winning plants (First, Second, Third and HC) will be subjected to random DNA tests to verify their identities.

Be afraid … be very afraid; the DNA police are on the march. 

You understand I must remain anonymouse.

* BOT:  Yes, the Ed had to ask as well. It’s a member of the Board of Trustees. There are probably several sitting not far from you at a NMK meeting. And yes, we are just joking. I think.


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