Contents Volume 24. No 1
|Editorial and more||Trevor Wray|
|Requiem for the Kempston Show||Doug Rowland|
|The Winter management of Lithops seedlings||Roland Tebbenham|
|White leaved Crassulaceae||Trevor Wray|
|The Holiday Snaps|
|A visit to El Tatio Geysers||Trevor Wray|
The cover picture shows an extreme close-up view of the flowers of Sedum greggii. Rather pretty but these flowers are just a few mm across. Reality shows a plant which has a neat rosette of stems until it flowers. Then the plant falls apart and fragments redistribute the species through your collection.
EDITORIAL and more.....
Welcome to this edition of Northants News—the NMK’s Branch magazine.
it’s Thursday it must be Glasgow
the late Autumn of 2012 the FL and I spent a very enjoyable week on what is
called the ‘Scottish Tour’. Five Scottish, BCSS branches in a row. It is
hard work: a long drive to Scotland, and more demanding drives locally, (there
was frost, fog, a bit of snow, an awful lot of rain and some sunshine along the
way), meeting new people, giving the presentations. Hard work; but very
hosts were most welcoming and generous, we were very well fed and ‘watered’.
From their greenhouses there were many plants and cuttings as souvenirs of our
trip; thank you.
may be wondering, as I was, whether it was possible to grow our plants where
there was eternal night in mid-winter. (OK, nearly eternal.)
It seems that eternal day in mid-summer seems to compensate. OK, there is
a lot of rain, or from the point of view of succulents, less sunshine.
Our plants seem resistant to these minor challenges, I could see.
the collections I viewed had attractive and interesting plants. Hamish
McKelvie’s collection near Glasgow was one, if not the best, collection of
cacti I have ever seen. In fact while I was at the Glasgow branch I ran a
slide-show of my images from the National Show in the break; all I heard was
“that’s mine, that’s mine” from different people. I thought at first
they were claiming raffle prizes but they were recognising their show plants.
thing I did wonder about with our Scottish brethren was the problem of isolation
from other cactus and succulent collectors. There are over 100 miles between
Inverness (Highlands and Islands Branch), Aberdeen (Grampian Branch) and the
Central Valley branches. Where can these growers access new plants? In NMK we
have many visiting speakers who bring plants, shows and open days at local
branches, zone shows with sales, and even nurseries within easy driving range.
Our friendships and local links especially by zone open days also provide access
to cheap propagations or gifts. How do they manage in the more remote areas of
there is improvisation there. Many plants are bought online from the internet.
We are talking Ebay, online nurseries and more. Then there is the Scottish
Continental Trip. An annual event with Scottish mainliners and some English
filling the seats; DJK and IP went recently. As I looked round the Scottish
collections I could see all the modern cultivars and novelties. Also a great
many old and really well grown cacti.
I said, hard work; but very rewarding. And I am glad I went.
the Scottish Tour we stayed with Steven Paterson near Peterhead. Steven has an
immaculate collection and especially likes Haworthias and Aloes. So do I, but I
struggle to keep roots on my Haworthias. Steven grows his in a Tesco cat litter
mix. You will know of this magic compost ingredient I expect… no? Well you can
web search it.
had many of the newest hybrid Aloes and Haworthias and was actively working on
hybrids. A tickle on the Haworthia flowers and a straw sleeve to stop the seeds
falling were innovations I have not seen before. Talking of Haworthia seed,
there were many brought along for free at the Ayr meeting.
the micro-prop hiccup? Steven accesses plants from many sources which included
some of those micro-propagated Aloes. Some of these arrived healthy but reverted
to what look like the random cell division of micro-propagated cells. A sort of
cancer I suppose. Curious; has anyone else noticed this?
succulent Euphorbia it probably needs two to tango: you often need both a male
and female plant to produce fruits. These generally contain three seeds which
are released explosively. You can hear them pinging around the GH on a hot day.
When you grow Euphorbia
plants you get used to the odd seedlings popping up here and there. The image
(right) shows a ‘weed’ Euphorbia growing in an Adromischus grown from a leaf
collected at the Packhuis Pass in South Africa. This is rather special to me.
You might guess that I am using the term ‘weed’ correctly in the sense of
‘any plant where it is not wanted’.
this part of the greenhouse both a male and female Euphorbia
and I assumed that all the seedlings that popped up, and were generally potted
up, were obesa.
However, some study of what exactly was Euphorbia
that one was and the other was E.
(or maybe a hybrid), there are differences in the flower arrangement though the
bodies are very similar. Now we know that E.
considered a variety of obesa.
So all these seedling plants were still technically obesa.
a Euphorbia meloformis hybrid fighting for space with an
Adromischus in the Ed's greenhouse.
I separated the Euphorbia from my interesting Adromischus and potted it up. Now
I am not so sure… In another corner grows Euphorbia meloformis.
Turns out this is a male form so perhaps we are seeing a cross here. You can
recent years my male E. obesa has languished and lost its roots. It was
probably exhausted pollinating all the female Euphorbias around. Wishing to grow
some more from seed, I was tempted by cheap seedlings from our Doug in Kempston;
I bought three, not yet flowered. You guessed it; they all turned out to be
females as well. So now I have four female E.
lots of other species of various persuasions). My single male obesa
has woken up, extended its roots and may yet be up to producing some babies.
and (the history of) everything
reread this piece I have to suggest that if you are new to the hobby, are
traditional, or maybe just old, or have never changed the name on a plant in
your life, just skip this article.
was reading the latest Cactus Explorer, (a very good read by the way), and a
link led me to a report called ‘Molecular phylogenetics of Echinopsis
(Cactaceae): Polyphyly at all levels and convergent evolution of pollination
modes and growth forms’. Well, yes… an interesting paper, especially for
those who have more knowledge, (and brain cells), than me. So, yes…
will know that DNA is the answer to everything. Guilt, (or otherwise), in
criminal cases, fatherhood, even motherhood and, recently, the relationship
between animals and plants. If the DNA suggests that elephants and ants are
closely related, then they are. I am just joking of course, well maybe not, but
we are going to talk about plants. Especially cacti.
was a giant reorganisation, and lumping, of Trichocereus,
and some minor genera. It went like this: Echinopsis
were globular, night-flowering plants that sometimes grew tall when very, very
old. When they grew tall when quite young, they were called Trichocereus.
They still flowered at night. Both were good for grafting. If they were day
flowering they were called Lobivia. Oh well, lump them all together. While
there, throw in Acanthocalycium,
and some others I will have forgotten which are vaguely, or very similar,
depending on your view.
it seems that DNA studies show they drop into distinct groupings. Tallness and
when they flower are not too relevant it now seems. So if more genera are
brought back there might be night or day flowering plants in the same genus. And
tall and short plants. All closely related by the things we cannot see without a
microscope (and our DNA sequencer).
I was most interested that, what these days we call Echinopsis
famatinensis, (and was previously called a Lobivia and Reicheocactus),
now stands separated from the rest. Looks like the generic name Reicheocactus
might be resurrected. It is certainly different from many of the others, (in
looks and DNA), has attractive spination and subtle flowers. For column inches
of learned writing this species is probably third after Carnegiea gigantea and
williamsii. A long time ago this was a very controversial species. And all the
prize winning exhibits at shows are still called Reicheocactus
famatimensis so perhaps the exhibitors knew their plants were a bit special in the Echinopsis
might this ground breaking DNA study mean in our greenhouses you will ask. Well
I would dare to suggest that we will all keep the same labels on our plants that
we had when we bought them. And I bet that all these old, newly lumped, maybe to
be un-lumped, genera will still be in the Echinopsis
group in future ‘Guide to Shows’, thank goodness.
suppose with this lot I better add a glossary. I am indebted to Wikipedia for
all the long words. (It’s the first place I always look for long words)
polyphyletic (Greek for "of many races") group is one characterized by
one or more homoplasies: character states which have converged or reverted so as
to appear to be the same but which have not been inherited from common
biology, phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relationships among groups
of organisms (e.g. species, populations), which is discovered through molecular
sequencing data and morphological data matrices. The term phylogenetics derives
from the Greek terms phyle and phylon, denoting "tribe" and
"race" and the term genetikos, denoting "relative to birth",
from genesis "origin" and "birth". The result of
phylogenetic studies is a hypothesis about the evolutionary history of taxonomic
groups: their phylogeny.
now you know. As I suggested, perhaps you should not have read this one. And
Genesis is a band I still enjoy while editing NN.
More on DNA
a bulletin board I read was an invitation to check out a certain high resolution
scan of an old photo of a pad of Opuntia blakeana
and look for a fingerprint. ‘Possibly the person who made the scan’,
suggested the report.
got me wondering. In these days of forensic science and DNA testing, perhaps the
old type preservations of cacti could reveal some secrets. Did Backeberg in fact
preserve that type specimen? A quick check for fingerprints and DNA would seem
in order. Might we find Britton and Rose’s DNA on some fragments of cacti in
some long lost herbarium? Oh well. I don’t suppose it matters a jot, at least
in Middle England. Do you know good labels are several pence each? Why change
do you spell ‘Blackhead’?
was rereading the previous issue of Northants News and noticed an apparent
spelling mistake we missed. The FL and Roland spot most of the spellings and as
you will have heard the computer here has been quite well trained. So this was a
story starts on one of the ‘Open Garden’ days here when I gave away some
plants of what I shall call Aeonium ‘Blackhead’ to interested visitors. I
had to make out some labels and I checked the spelling in the Crassulaceae
volume of the IHS.
it said. Recently I had a multilingual visitor and I struggled again with
spelling. When I explained it meant ‘Black-head’ in German, she rapidly
dictated ‘Schwarzkopf’ and this was how Roland spelt it in his article about
some new Aeonium cultivars. ‘Schwarzkopf’
has 19,200 hits on Google. Quite a lot, but ‘Zwartkop’ has 29,800, so
for once the internet has the answer.
all I have to do is find ‘Schwarzkopf’ in the computer’s custom
dictionary, delete it and substitute ‘Zwartkop’. The computer seems to think
that ‘Zwartkop’ is Danish for ‘Blackcap’ so now we know nearly
a long time this choicest cultivar has been considered a sport of the Aeonium arboreum
which originated in Holland. The latest theory is that it is a cultivar from A.
manriqueorum. I think that many of the plants in the Northants area are
misidentified. The smaller headed plant with less intense purple heads is
‘Atropurpureum’. It is only now I have grown both I can see the difference.
Especially in the garden where they grow very well through the summer;
‘Zwartkop’ is twice as big as ‘Atropurpureum’ and this year, with less
sun and more rain the last has been almost green.
on the seed list
my copy of CactusWorld dropped through the letter box I paused for only a few
seconds to savour the aroma of fresh printer’s ink (surely CactusWorld has one
of the best?) before opening the seed list. This is a great read and some great
seeds to order, if you are quick enough. So I scanned quickly through the list.
I am familiar with the genera and a great many of the species but occasionally I
have to resort to the reference books. Turned out that all the unknown Aloes
were large ones; too bad, as they had a collector’s number.
I had finished and my first class stamp attached to the envelope I took a slower
look through the list. A disclaimer at the front says that the seed is sold
under the name it is received under, fair enough, but the taxonomy is pretty
chaotic. An Echinocereus or Gymnocalycium is pretty much that. However in the
plants listed as Eriosyce there are species which were previously Eriosyce,
Rhodentiophylla and Pyrrhocactus, (and very tricky to grow), and Neoporteria,
Neochilenia, Chilenia (and a few others I have probably forgotten), which are
much easier to grow. I noted there were a couple of Pyrrhocactus listed
used to view Echinopsis as globular plants with large, night flowers. They were
so easy to grow you could use them for grafting stock. Now the genus includes
all sorts of things, many of which are vast barrel cacti or tree-like. Some, but
not all, the tree-like ones are suitable for grafting but not likely to flower
from seed in a lifetime. (Or perhaps I should say the average BCSS member!) The
kinds we used to call Lobivia are perhaps the best for beginners.
I pondered the relevance of the collectors’ numbers added to the names. There
is nothing there to distinguish the seed collected straight from the plants in
habitat and that gained by hand pollinating (and maybe hybridising) plants in
collections. Oh well, perhaps it’s only me…
raising is a potentially complicated area for the beginner to step into. But fun
and it’s cheap.
An early masterpiece
FL and I were clearing out some old documents and came across this
painting by our son Philip when he was two. It deserves to be more widely
published. You can easily see it is titled ‘Daddy’s Cactus’.
(Can’t you?) He shows an early skill at botanical illustration. However
it is not clear exactly what species he had in mind. That it is a cactus
we can be sure, maybe one of those curious red Gymnos you are thinking,
but I have never grown these. I think it is a Copiapoa, you can clearly
see the cluster and spination, also I had many 30 years ago. However I
have seen the herbarium specimens of many cacti which are equally
unrecognisable. This unique art work is available as a limited edition
print. Please apply to the Ed. It will cost you thousands, (pounds, Euros
or US dollars) – or one NN article.