Northants News 18.2 Summer 2007

2006 - A Baja Echinocerus Year?         Ian Priestley

(You can click the pictures in these articles for a better view.)

Ian continues his review of the Echinocereus of Baja California...

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Echinocereus brandegeei SB1697 with spectacular flower.

Echinocereus brandegeei.

I have several forms of this species, including two of the newer Stephen Brack (Mesa Garden) forms originating from Southfields Nursery. SB 1681 (Pozo Aleman?) is reputedly a small clustering form, said to flower well, although mine has not yet obliged, darn it!

The second, SB 1697 (Cerro Colorado, BC) a stunning, chunky stemmed, strongly spined form, is a similar shy flowerer and is similarly reluctant for me, although both plants are beautiful, with just stunning superb whitish spination, which turns pink/red in growth – both forms are absolutely definitely worth their greenhouse space.

My oldest plant however, is one which I have flowered only once before, about 10 years ago when it had been sitting in the roof of one of our greenhouses in Milton Keynes, over a long hot summer. I actually missed this event… as you do! - but spotted the old flower remains later - embarrassingly only when I was thinking of donating it to another collector, with more space!

It was then looking a bit “straggly” so the decision to move it onwards was quickly reversed and instead it was “tidied up and pruned” back and I rooted up two of the resultant outside stem cuttings. Both in 2004, 2005 and again this summer, I had one pinky/purple flower on the same one of these single rooted stems, both of which are now sitting on the bench. The main clump, which is actually sitting on the top shelf, has not yet flowered for me – it’s obviously time for the rather long overdue repot, to give it some extra encouragement, for 2007.

The Priestley family photographer missed the first flower on the cuttings, it was only open for about 3-4 days in early August, but luckily managed to catch the second, growing in more shade, at the end of August.

In cultivation, I find that this species, unlike many of the species mentioned here, has a sizeable rootball and thus seem ideal candidates for deeper pots.

Echinocereus engelmannii

This species is widely distributed in a variety of forms in Arizona, California, and Baja California. Unfortunately I do not grow any representatives of the species from Baja.

(Ed: And neither do I, but you might like to see a nice habitat plant of the species (pictured right). Sue spotted it out of the window on a particularly gruesome bit of mountain road on the slopes of San Francisco de la Sierra, North of San Ignacio, BCS. Don was driving and had his eyes on the road and mine were closed.)

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Echinocereus lindsayi flowers for Peter Berrisford of Luton BCSS. Snapped on the Zone 6 Open Day in 2005.

Echinocereus ferreirianus and var. lindsayi.

Both of these plants are much easier to flower than some of the others noted here. However, my oldest plant of E. ferreirianus is proving very difficult to cultivate. In fact, sadly, it is reaching the point where a decision will need to be taken about obtaining a replacement, if it refuses to continue its lack of co-operation! This is a yellow card in football equivalent, buck your ideas up or else! Having made this threat, I managed to obtain a beautiful specimen plant earlier in 2006, which happily is growing strongly.

Variety lindsayi is a sought after beauty, its long curving spines always demand attention and when in flower it is an even more attractive stunner. Older plants will clump apparently but I can only recollect seeing plants like mine, which is a single headed plant, approx 6” in height, 3.5” in width, held in a 4.5” pot. I have to say though that it needs careful watering, otherwise from experience, if you get too enthusiastic - it has a distinct tendency of disappearing back to cactus heaven!

Echinocereus maritimus and var. hancockii

I have both of these species, including two forms of E. maritimus.

My largest E. maritimus is a “sizeable” (probably in UK terms anyway, although in habitat they can grow up to 2m diameter!!) clump. It now fills a 7” BEF pan, was repotted earlier in 2005 and probably needs a larger home for 2006. For reference, this came from Ken Burke in 1997. My second, slightly smaller plant was acquired as a seedling in 1995, now also in a 7” pan, this has the reference SB 1682 El Rosario BC.

I also have a smaller plant (4.5”) of E. maritimus v. hancockii (E. hancockii). Both species are very similar, the difference seeming to be that var. hancockii has more compact stems and much longer spination, which makes it extremely attractive.

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Echinocereus maritimus in cultivation

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Above: Under the name E. maritimus var. hancockii, probably an impostor but any ideas? Still, it is an attractive plant.

I only came across/acquired the variety by a lucky chance. Again it is a species that I have never seen for sale previously, in fact I can not recall seeing it in any collections either, possibly because the seed may be very difficult to come by? In fact, I now wonder where this seed originated – I shall have to find out!

I am also enclosing a photo of an older acquisition, under this name. It could be M. hancockii, but I think is probably an impostor. It has not yet flowered for me, so I wonder (hopefully!!) if it may perhaps be an early import of E. pacificus, which it seems to most closely resemble?

If anyone has any ideas on identification, please advise.

My larger E. maritimus seems to have been flowering for most of this summer, it is covered in dead flower heads, and its lovely yellow flowers continue to emerge, even in early September. On average though, I would say that the plant only opens a maximum of about 4-6 flowers at any one time.

Echinocereus pacificus

I have a new, 6” clumping plant of this species, labelled Species PP 130, obtained earlier this year. I cannot thus comment as yet on its flowering characteristics, although it does have a single old flower remnant, which is encouraging. It seems to grow easily enough in my conditions, there are no apparent difficulties but I will report more on this plant, and hopefully its flowers, in in the future.

Echinocereus pensilis

This has an older name, Morangaya pensilis, in praise of two well known American collectors, Ed Gay and Reid Moran. It is a very untypical Echinocereus, unique in its slim, pendant form with sprawling stems, originating from the Cape region – the southern tip of Baja California.

I acquired my first plant as M. pensilis, (ISI 1051) in the 1978 ISI listings, as a freebie distribution, so probably collectors then, as now, were reticent to recognise its charms. The first plant has long since departed for Baja heaven, but I recollect it as being easy to flower and that one stem reached about 36” in length – definitely a hanging basket job!

I thought I was very fortunate to acquire a more moderately sized replacement at a recent Oxford branch collection sale, at a very cheap price – no-one else wanted it! Since then it has done well, though Julie thinks that if I hang it up from one of our main house roofbars, then the greenhouse will collapse!!

Oh my poor plant! What a curse you carry, but I promise to persevere with you and will find you a suitable bright spot, once “her indoors” is not looking….!! In return though, you have to promise to co-operate and repay me with some of those overdue flowers!

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Echinocereus websterianus at the Zone 6 Show, 2006

Echinocereus websterianus (E. grandis).

I have linked these two species, being uncertain of whether they are in fact one or two species? (Note Anderson and Preston-Mafham, for two, treat them as being distinct!) (Ed; and so does the CITES Checklist!)

I have two plants of E. websterianus; one an old, untidy plant obtained for £1 in 2004, at a collection sale, which does not seem to have ever flowered and which is now located in the centre of the main bench.

My older, nicer 7 headed clumping plant, ex John Henshaw of Croston Cactus - 1995, has a distinct yellowish tinge. It flowers annually for me and was quite early this year, June/July if memory serves me correctly and surprisingly the whitish, pink flowers are short-tubed and appear very small for an Echinocereus. My plant does not show any tendency to grow taller though, although I have seen several plants in cultivation with single stems, labelled E. grandis, up to about 20cm in height.

Ohr and Römer remark that there is much uncertainty and comment about the flower colour, which varies from white (for plants ex Isla San Esteban) to pink/violet and occasionally yellowish, for forms found on the other islands of San Lorenzo, Nolasco Island and Las Animas, in the Gulf of California. It is thought to have a very limited distribution.

It is unclear though whether the plant is actually to be found growing on the Baja California mainland, or whether it is only an island(s) based endemic, like some other species.

Cultivation wise, again I find this undemanding, but a slow grower, which again prefers a deep pot. It is though a holy terror when you attempt to repot it, even the slightest touch seems to break off the spine clusters, a very difficult issue to avoid if you are moving a larger plant! Unfortunately, this tendency also permanently marks the plant and any judges should be aware that such faults are not necessarily due to poor cultivation!

Note if you are tempted to push this species, with the attendant risks, I have found that obtaining replacement plants is not an easy exercise nowadays.

To complete the set of Baja Californian species, I should add;

Echinocereus sciurus

I only have one seedling plant of this species, my two previous species having both gone blind on the main stem, after flowering - a very bad habit “Darn it”, for what is otherwise, a real charmer, a small clumping plant, again well worth seeking out!


PS All who grow cacti know that they can be very contrary! So, to follow the trend, it is now early October , so the bulk of the flowers in the greenhouse are from my collection of Ariocarpus, I see that E. Brandegeei SB1697 is now in flower, it has lasted about 2-3 weeks.


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These were some clusters of Echinocereus sciurus seen on rocks near the beach south of Todos Santos, BCS.


Anderson - The Cactus Family 2001

Taylor – The Genus Echinocereus 1986.

Frank, Ohr and Römer – Die Echinocereen der Baja California 2001

Preston-Mafham – Cacti, The Illustrated Dictionary – 1991

The New Cactus Lexicon – Hunt – 2006

Echinocereus Online


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