Contents of the Spring 2015 Northants News

The Monkey Tail Cactus                                  Trevor Wray

 This plant was introduced in the 1960s but not described until 2003; so quite a recent name.

It was first described as Hildewintera polonica by V. Foik & Foik but that didn’t work taxonomically, (which is a pity because I rather like the idea of a ‘Polish’ cactus.).

Cleistocactus winteri colademononis

The same year it was validly published as Hildewintera colademononis by Diers & Krahn, Though I am sure you knew that ‘polonica’ was Polish, I bet you didn’t know ‘colademononis’ was monkey-tail. Oh, you did! I learned from the ISI info (it was distributed as ISI 2007-3) that the Spanish vernacular name Cola de Mono (meaning monkey’s tail) was applied by residents of the Bolivian town of Samaipata who first brought the species into cultivation from its nearby habitat. Anyway, an apt name for a beautiful plant.

In 2005 David Hunt changed the name to Cleistocactus winteri subspecies colademononis. It is well known that Cleistocactus go up but in this case they can hang down as well. At least Hilde Winter still gets a mention.

Cleistocactus winteri colademononis

The plant is easy to grow; mine has suffered a few incursions into the frost zone. New off-sets sprout vigorously from the crown and are quickly rooted as cuttings during the growing season. I recommend it as a hanging basket plant where it carries its striking red flowers all summer.


Root Mealy Bugs in School                                  Sue Murfin

An email correspondence with a lady who wrote seeking a Disocactus (Aporocactus) cutting had two happy conclusions. She got the cuttings and we got this ‘How I started’. Read on...

I started off on cacti with an Opuntia microdasys when I was about 14 - I got interested because some years before I had been given some notepaper with a cartoon picture of a little black girl standing by what I took to be some balls she was dropping, though it always puzzled me a bit. (The balls weren't actually joined up in the picture) I 'd never seen a cactus (well, you didn't in the late 40's...).


Left:: They look harmless but novices soon learn to treat the tiny glochids on Opuntia microdasys with respect.

When I saw a real one for sale some years later I had to have it! I soon learned how to take glochids out of my fingers with elastoplasts; we didn't have sellotape in our house in those days.

I used to haunt Woolworths after school, looking for bits that had dropped off the ones they were selling and taking them home to root. In one English lesson at school we all had to give a short talk on a subject of our choice and I well remember the reaction when I started talking about root mealy bug!

I soon joined the NCSS, as it was then. It was great, as the older gentlemen members were willing to show a young girl round their greenhouses and give her cuttings... I couldn't have been a day over 15.

I entered the society's show in Sheffield after a few years and won a prize for a Rhipsalidopsis which obligingly flowered at the right time and one for a pot of seedling mammillarias.

Gosh the trouble we went to with that compost, you couldn't buy cactus compost in those days. I used to crush up broken plant pots for grit and for the seedlings my Mum sterilised the soil for me in the oven. How times change.

She let me keep my collection on a table in the bay window of her bedroom, and soak them all in the bath on watering day... I never appreciated what it must have cost her. I used to hanker after a really big Echinocactus grusonii - dream on, I had no money and no greenhouse...All I have left now from all those plants is a very worse for wear epiphyllum and one of the old Christmas cacti, before all the lovely modern hybrids came out. (A friend has given me two of those...) I still don't have a greenhouse though, it is too windy here, but I enjoy my largish garden and have a modest collection of hardy fuchsias.


Ed: Thanks Sue, That certainly brings back memories and it is amazing how often Woolworths features in early cactus recollections. I vaguely remembered that cartoon as well and started an image web-search; ‘girl, opuntia and cartoon’ produced some curious sites, (or sights), not all suitable for family viewing. While ‘prickly pear cartoon’ produced a website of cactus tattoos which were really tasteful, (for tattoos that is). Search ‘cactus tattoos’ for a must have for cactus freaks. The FL says I can’t have one! Not ever. Oh well…

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