Contents Volume 24. No 3

Winter 2013

Editorial and more Trevor Wray
2013 Season's Events  Diana Capel
New Cactus Country Trevor Wray
Fenland Wanderings Roland Tebbenham
Endpieces Trevor Wray

Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) patersonii

Cover picture: 

I remember we used to buy habitat Sarcocaulon imported from South Africa. Well not me; I couldn’t afford them. Now the genus is called the less familiar Monsonia. Whatever you called them the plants never seemed to thrive; they would have the odd leaves and flowers but rarely rooted. What a contrast to see them in habitat. This Monsonia patersonii seen near Rosh Pinah in Southern Namibia was a ball of flowers. Oh to be able to copy this in cultivation! Or perhaps you do?  

The images below were not in the printed edition of NN and show more of Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) patersonii in habitat near Rosh Pinah, Namibia.




Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) patersonii near Rosh Pinah Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) patersonii Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) patersonii

Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) patersonii in habitat near Rosh Pinah, Namibia.


EDITORIAL and more.....


Well, here we are again with some trivia in another edition of NN.  

Stratiotes aloides (Water Soldier)

A ‘Houseleek’ but not as you know it!

You may not be familiar with the ‘water houseleek’, Stratiotes aloides, though you might guess it looks like an Aloe, (oides = Gr ‘like’). I suppose it does. In fact the plant is a native aquatic with the more usual common name of ‘water soldier’. It is called ‘Water Aloe’ in the US and considered an invasive ‘alien’, (= introduced), plant.  

If you consider that the plants we grow are a bit weird try this… Stratiotes is a localised wetland plant of Britain and in particular East Anglia. It is dioecious, (having male and female flowers on separate plants) and all the plants in the UK are females, (which is one factor to its distribution). No doubt introduced for its medicinal value: “the plant is said to be of use in the treatment of St. Anthony’s Fire and also of bruised kidneys”. So now you know.

Above: The water houseleek, (Stratiotes aloides) in full bloom. Don’t get excited! A tadpole sets the scale

Plants spend most of the year under water but come to the surface to flower in summer. Clever stuff.

If you want any do not collect it from the wild; two aquatic plant dealers were fined an awful lot of money (under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for that). Just see me.

With my curiosity roused, (and it was raining outside), I researched other plants called ‘houseleek’ which were not Sempervivum. I quickly came upon the ‘tree houseleek’ which is one common name for Aeonium arboreum. Also the ‘Giant Houseleek‘ is Aeonium percarneum from Gran Canaria unless it is the Lanzarote Giant Houseleek (from Lanzarote) or the El Hierro Giant Houseleek, Aeonium hierrense. You get the idea.

There is also the ‘small houseleek’ which is Sedum album.

It was still raining so I looked for ‘aloides’. An Aloina aloides ( a fine bit of tautology) is a moss which looks like one, (a small one, as is Pogonatum aloides (dwarf haircap) and this is also a British native.

Lachenalia aloides is a bulb. Guess what, the leaf rosettes are Aloe like. Dudleya saxosa ssp. aloides is a member of the Crassulaceae family and Nananthus aloides is a mesemb. As is Aloinopsis. I was puzzling what this has to do with Aloe as they are warty things and look nothing like them. Historically they were in the section Aloidea of Mesembryanthemum which then included that Nananthus. Rather obscure thinking.

There is also Ledermanniella (or Inversodicraeia) aloides and Schizothecium (or Podospora ) aloides.

I suppose in this little survey I should include Bulbine alooides in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae. Either a botanist who couldn’t spell or a perfectionist because ‘aloe like’ should in fact be alooides.

Talea Aloides sounds like a species but turned out to be geographically connected to Aloides a place on the island of Crete. As was Arxaia Aloides, a village in Crete, but I am sure you knew that.

Then Alk-aloides which sounds rather illegal but is a strange rap You-tube type video in a strange language. Alkaloids are of course definitely illegal.

If you can find any more I promise not to print them.

Flower crab spiders  

Maihueniopsis molfinoi flower Maihueniopsis molfinoi flower with mites

Maihueniopsis molfinoi flower near the Hostería El Unquillar, Susques, Argentina, with a zoom-in to see the mites

Looking through my Argentine images there is always something new to notice. On a picture of a Maihueniopsis flower (I had this as a Cumulopuntia at the time) I noticed the interior was crawling with tiny ‘spiders’. Well I guessed they were spiders because they had eight legs. One advantage of high resolution images is the ability to zoom in. I took four images, (bracketing they call it), a few seconds apart and judging by their relative movement the spiders were highly mobile; at least for their size.  

A web search brought up crab spiders as living in cactus flowers, though the image looked nothing like these spiders. A web search then for crab / spider / cactus / flower produced the ‘Spider Cactus’ or Gymnocalycium denudatum but only because of its spines!

As I looked more closely at the ‘spiders’ I thought they didn’t really fit here. How many legs does a mite have? It turns out that mites are also arachnids (spider family) and these were definitely, probably mites.

I often notice small bugs swarming in flowers. Most obvious seem to be beetles, thrips and ants, with the odd bee visitor. Cactus flowers are a rich source of food; nectar, pollen and relatively moist tissue in a desert. I have watched ants cut up and take away whole cactus flowers. It is apparent that these flowers are an important part of life for these creatures; but each flower lasts only a day or two. Do all the occupants decamp to the next flower? What happens when the flowering season ends? I am quite sure that cactus flowers are not there only to keep cactus freaks happy.

A shopping bargain

In a budget supermarket, (that rhythmes with baldy), there was a new line of well grown cacti and succulents. Many were beginners’ plants, easy succulents grown from cuttings, but there were some nice, seed-raised golden barrels and other cacti. One species especially took my fancy; see if you recognise it from the tag which said.

Cacti ball.

10.5 cm Pot

Melocatus matanzanus

Care: Sunny place, can stand in direct sunlight. Ambient room temperature. Water scarcely. Avoid stagnant moisture. Fertilize in summer. Keep away from children. For decoration only, not for consumption. Produced in Italy.

Good advice, especially about the children and consumption. There were just the two left and I bought both. The plants appeared planted in attractive long-tom terracotta pots, which turned out to be planters with no drainage holes. The plants had been grown in 10.5cm half pots and the compost was pure peat, (or maybe similar).

The price was £2.99, pretty fair for a supermarket cactus. Oh, the species? They were Melocactus matanzanus just producing a cephalium. How do they do that for the price?

PS In the Word dictionary, how can matanzanus be Matanzas’s? And who or what is Matanzas? Oh, it is the Cuban province where a Melocactus can be found!

Left A £2.99 bargain Melocactus matanzanus from the supermarket.

Echeveria subcorymbosa and friends

I grow two clones of Echeveria subcorymbosa, (Lau 036 and Lau 030), a species described in 1994 from Oaxaca, Mexico. They do not look very similar and are from different locations, but the pictures in the botanical description are a good match for my plants.

Recently I bought a plant called Echeveria expatriata, (or ‘expatriate’ as Mrs. Dell would have it), apparently a dwarf offsetting species resembling E. subcorymbosa. I looked E. expatriata up in John Pilbeam’s recent book on the genus Echeveria but it had no mention. You will of course know that expatriate means ‘to send out of one’s country, to banish to exile…’. Strange.

Recently I was shuffling the pack in the greenhouse by selecting plants for a display and noticed the ‘expatriate’ again. That evening I was making new labels and cards for the display and idly entered ‘expatriata’ into Google. Bingo; there were several mentions and in particular the original description of E. subcorymbosa. There I read, (in the small print)…

Abbey Garden of Carpenteria, California, offered plants propagated from Riha's collection (Ed: at one of Lau’s sites, L030 Laguna Encantada) but under the name of Echeveria expatriata, a plant which is most likely of hybrid origin.

One of the other internet hits, also on, described Echeveria expatriata as the hybrid Cremnophila linguifolia x Echeveria amoena ‘Microcalyx’. So not strictly an Echeveria at all but a X Cremneria hybrid. Cremnophila do not seem attractive members of the family and this hybrid seems to follow the trend. The image shows a plant body vaguely similar to E. subcorymbosa but with a long gangly flower stem nothing like my plant.

So it looks like I wasted my £1; my purchase of Echeveria expatriata is in fact Echeveria subcorymbosa. However noticing that this version might be the clone propagated by Abbey Garden and was collected separately from Lau 030 I shall watch for some slight difference. I am getting to be really sad.

If you want to read the online description of Echeveria subcorymbosa, (which is a pretty, attractive dwarf species), go to …

On second thoughts don’t bother typing this in; I am sure if you enter Crassulaceae, subcorymbosa and expatriata into your favourite search engine you will arrive at the original description of Echeveria subcorymbosa, courtesy of the US journal.

My plants have clustered well; (I should say E. subcorymbosa Lau 036, Lau 030 and the one called E. expatriata), if you want a (small) bit, (or bits), just shout.

Strange Lithops

When we were at our display at Billing my attention was drawn to one of Barry’s Lithops that was a bit strange. From one of the heads mini-molehills were appearing. I can give no explanation for this and I am not sure what will happen next, but we do occasionally see unusual things with Lithops.

My second example is a three leaved head on a two year old seedling Lithops lesliei ‘Albinica’. This is fairly frequent especially with seedlings and during the winter resting period the heads revert to the normal two leaved form.

Finally I present a seed raised plant of Lithops hallii that is misbehaving. Some years back one head ‘changed’, (I presume I can say mutated), and now half the plant looks different. I could never show the plant now because no judge would believe that there was only one plant there. Two plants in the pot would be an automatic NAS. I have seen similar plants in other collections but this does seem a rare occurrence.

There is more worth reading in the Cole’s ‘Lithops’ book.

Lithops developing warts

Three leaved Lithops

One Lithops with diffent patterend leaves

Above: Aberrant forms of Lithops in cultivation

This issue

So it just remains for me to hope you enjoy this issue and have a happy Christmas!

Cactophilitically, Trev




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

Back issues of the NMK Branch magazine

Northants News Volume 24.2
Northants News Volume 24.1

Northants News Volume 23.3

Northants News Volume 23.2

Northants News Volume 23.1