Five contorted cactuses

Continuing the recent theme of cacti and succulents on this blog (focused on plants that are either beautiful or phallic): five contorted or convoluted plants — all of them, apparently, originating in genetic sports of more everyday organisms).

Crested (or cristate) cacti. I start with a crested Haageocereus:


A miniature cristata variant of Haageocereus pseudomelanostele, looking like caterpillars run amok. An ordinary cactus from the genus (“cacti endemic to the lower elevations of the extremely dry desert along the coast of Peru and northern Chile”, according to Wikipedia), H. Acanthocladus:


From a 2010 article in the L.A. Times, “Mutant cactuses prized by collectors”:

Some look like brains. Others look like pythons, alluvial fans, coral outcroppings or stretch waistbands. They’re known as crests, and they’re a high point in [a 2010 show] at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Cresting [aka cristation] happens when a new growth emerges from a line rather than a point. It’s spontaneous and unpredictable, and no two examples are alike. Because such mutants tend to be slow-growing, the older the crest, the more prized by collectors.

Squashed hedgehogs (or sea urchins). A remarkable EchinopsisEchinopsis [formerly Lobivia] densispina cristata:


On the genus, from Wikipedia:

Echinopsis is a large genus of cacti native to South America, sometimes known as hedgehog cactus, sea-urchin cactus or Easter lily cactus. …. The 128 species range from large and treelike types to small globose cacti. The name derives from echinos hedgehog or sea urchin, and opsis appearance, a reference to these plants’ dense coverings of spines.

Hard to believe from #3, but ordinary Echinopsis do in fact look like hedgehogs or sea urchins. Here’s Echinopsis eyriesii (in bloom):


Blueberry cacti out of hand. The genus, from Wikipedia:

Myrtillocactus (from Latin, “blueberry cactus”) is a genus of cacti. The genus is found from Mexico to Guatemala. The genus is best known with Myrtillocactus geometrizans.

… The largest plants in this genus can grow as tall as 5 meters. This cactus tends to flower in the summer and creates edible purple berries.

This time I’ll start with the everyday variant, of M. geometrizans:


A relatively modest variant, of notably mammary form:


And then a wild crestex variant of M. geometrizans:


Going spiral: Eulychnia. On the genus, from Wikipedia:

Eulychnia is a genus of candelabriform or arborescent cacti, comprising between 6 and 9 species depending on the authority. These desert cacti can survive under very hot conditions — temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, this breed of cacti can also survive in some of the driest places in the world such as the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world.

An spread of ordinary Eulychnia castanea:


And then the spiral variant:


A great many cactus species have spiral variants. It’s something that happens — not very often, but it happens.

Going spiral: Cereus. One more. This time, the genus Cereus, from Wikipedia:

Cereus is a genus of cacti (family Cactaceae) including around 33 species of large columnar cacti from South America. The name is derived from Greek (κηρός) and Latin words meaning “wax” or “torch” [or “candle”]. The genus Cereus was one of the first cactus genera to be described

Cereus are shrubby or treelike, often attaining great heights (… up to 15 m). Most stems are angled or distinctly ribbed, ribs 3–14, usually well developed and have large areoles, usually bearing spines. … Flowers are large, funnelform, 9–30 cm long, usually white, sometimes pink, purple, rarely cream, yellow, greenish, and open at night. Fruits are globose to ovoid to oblong, 3–13 cm long, fleshy, naked, usually red but sometimes yellow, pulp white, pink or red. Seeds large, curved ovoid, glossy black.

An ordinary Cereus, the handsome C. repandus, in bloom:


And a spiral variant of C. forbesii:


Night blooming plants. Common Cereus species are famously night blooming; this is a fairly frequent adaptation in cacti, making its blossoms available for pollination by bats, which fly at night, and by those species of moths that fly at night (especially in hot deserts, where the nights are cooler).

Night blooming plants mostly have white flowers (colored flowers are largely ineffective in attracting night-flying pollinators). Their flowers are ordinarily vigorously scented, again attracting pollinators in the dark.

Many popular Cereus species have it all: night blooming, white flowers (big white flowers), highly scented.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: