In the last blog, I described my visit to Wassand Hall. I came away with a good haul from the British cactus and succulent society stall. For tonight’s blog, I thought I’d take a look at a few of these in a little bit more detail to get a better sense of how to care for them.
I have attempted lithops from seed before and they’ve germinated well, started to put on growth and then just frozen at a small size. But I do like their strange brain-like form so I happily choose three different ones. These are a succulent that often goes by the name of living stone. In the wild, they are native to South Africa and survive in habitats with rainfall from almost 0 to 700mm a year. So, as houseplants, they survive on neglect. Watering is avoided from October until the old pair of leaves die away which can be as late as May. They go dormant in the heat of summer and then start growing in autumn. So need a little water around September. They were first described to science in 1811 by William John Burchell, a botanist and artist when he accidentally picked up a curious pebble from the ground.
The adaptation to look like rocks camouflages them against being eaten. They survive in the heat of the desert by mainly existing underground and just having the top surface of the leaves above ground. The leaves can shrink below ground if it gets particularly hot.
The first Lithops hookeri var. marginata is the first form from around the Cape Town area. It varies slightly, but the face (the top) is usually a speckled rust brown.
Lithops hookeri var. dabneri cv. Annarosa is a greener variety.
Lithops schwantesii var. rugosa comes from the Namibia area at north west of Helmeringhausen. I like how plants these take you on a trip around the world to show different niches plants can live in. People become very obsessed with collecting Lithops with their small size they make for a nice windowsill or greenhouse collection.
This grows in cliff faces in the Northern Cape of South Africa up to Namibia. It forms small upright columns. It forms four-angled compact velvety leaves. This reduces the leaf surface and thus the evaporation so it can survive in the heat of its native habitat. They are susceptible to mealy bugs and fungal infections. Overwatering is the commonest mistake growing them as a houseplant. I have a few other forms of Crassula and they have generally been fairly easy-care plants.
Known as the thimble cactus, it is a slow-growing small cactus from Eastern Mexico. This was one of my favourite purchases. I love how the spines spread to give a web-like effect. It’s listed as an easy-care cactus so hopefully, this one will thrive.
Oreocereus trolli var. majus
This just looked to be a fabulous cactus. It’s got the spines to prevent the water loss and protect and then the hairy strands to create the humidity trap. It’s a South American species from South Boliva and North Argentina. It’s one of the bigger ones I bought. It’s frost hardy and should be fairly tough in theory.
This is another South African species. The scales act in two ways. They reflect some of the suns light away from the plant and shade the small leaves underneath. They grow amongst rocks in their natural habitat. It’s recommended they are grown in a small shallow pot.
This is a little Mexican species forming jelly bean like succulent stems.
A relative of aloes, huttoniae has been renamed as excelsa in some sources. It is another South African succulent. It grows within shady thickets, on cliff edges and slopes. It has been found inland and in coastal positions. The leaves are brittle and new plants form from broken leaf fragments. The speckled dark green is one of the more attractive looking succulents I purchased. Alice choose a smaller one she fancied.
Unlike the other Oreocereus this one has the potential to grow big. In the wild they can grow 1-2m but I doubt I’ll be seeing any growth that big for a good while as growth is slow.
I’m going to need to work out how to display them to make the most of such interesting plants. I was wondering about putting them in terracotta pots and sinking them into a larger sand tray. A bit like the Wassand Hall display on a smaller scale but I’ll have to see what I can get hold of. I rather fancy a monkey tail cactus too though I’d then be adding to my problems of where to put all these plants. The furry hanging cactus at the front. Though this would probably be an accident waiting to happen. I can see how people can be obsessive about collecting these plants. They are fascinating, though luckily for my family I am limited to a few suitable windowsills. I hope you’ve enjoyed a closer look at the weekends purchases. I feel I’ve got a better grasp of conditions and watering from writing this. Hopefully they will survive and thrive.