In Issue 16:

The IRS Can't Get You For Taxonomy or How I Learned to Speak Binomialese
By Stan Korabel
from The Beaver Tale -- Southern Nevada

Care Suggestions for New Plants
By Stan Korabel
from The Beaver Tale -- Southern Nevada

Botany in the back yards of San Diego
By Jon P. Rebman
February 6, 2000 (Palomar C&S)

Dances With Cacti
By Bobbie Irwin
From the Chinle Chapter of the Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society "Points of Interest" newsletter

The Visual Language of Cacti
By Harriet Olds
From the Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society "Points of Interest" newsletter

By Chuck Staples
2001 Mid-Iowa C&SS


The IRS Can't Get You For Taxonomy or How I Learned to Speak Binomialese
By Stan Korabel
from The Beaver Tale -- Southern Nevada

The first club I joined many years ago was the Sunset Succulent Society. At that time I knew little of nomenclature or taxonomy. I knew that I would have to listen and learn to speak "binomialese" if I were to get along. Adios Fish Hook Cactus, wiedersehen Baseball Plant, sayonara Madagascar Palm.

In the space of just a couple of years I was able to toss off things like Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri var makoyana (Regel) Moran. No, not really. But seriously folks - These genera and species names mean something. Sometimes they honor a person. Linne, the inventor of the binomial system honored his friend Carl Thunberg with Pinus thunbergii, the Japanese Black Pine. I recently added an Asclepiad, Pseudolithos odsoniana, to my collection. It honors the late Jay Dodson, founder of the International Succulent Organization and fellow of the CSSA. Pseudo = false or imitation; lithos = stone, for the genus' mimicry in its habitat. Asclepiad after Asklepios the Greek god of medicine, as some of the plants had real or imagined curative power. Socrates, after drinking hemlock, said "I owe a rooster to Asklepios." Walter Raleigh in the same vein, touching the axe that was about to behead him, "It's sharp medicine but it cures all ills." Talk about gallows humor! Those guys had balls of steel. I'd have trouble in like circumstance articulating "aargh" or even "gak."

But I digress.

Sometimes geographic location enters into the name. Melocactus matanzanus from Mantanzana, Cuba, is very popular and rightly so. Weingartia riograndensis is from Argentina, not our Rio Grand. The suffix ensis denotes place and is frequently used. Gymnocalycium (gymno = bare, calycium = receptacle) has a flower with a receptacle of scales without hair. Gymnocalycium mesopotamicum (between rivers) doesn't tell us much.

Some taxons physically describe the plant. The genus Pachypodium (=big foot) and type species succulentum is certainly well named, and P. bispinosum (=two spined), by golly, has paired spines on the branches of my plant (except where they were accidentally broken.) P. brevicaule (=short stem) is much more exciting than it sounds. Astrophytum (=star plant) is well named.

Hey, that's enough for now! Next time how to pronounce all those names. Meanwhile, work on these: Euphorbia pachypodiodes and Gymnocalycium castellanosii.


Care Suggestions for New Plants
By Stan Korabel
from The Beaver Tale -- Southern Nevada

Whenever I buy a plant I try to repot it at the earliest opportunity for a couple of reasons: I want to inspect the roots and look for any insect infestation, and get the plant into my own soil mix. Since I get my plants from many nurseries with many different mixes, it would be almost impossible to water on schedule. I have purchased plants that have lost their roots on several occasions, and had root mealies just once. The mealy bugs were easy (dunking in an insecticide), but with missing roots it was either re-root or return it to the nursery.

If the plant is purchased mail order it's received bare root, and there shouldn't be any problems. I hydrate the roots for 5-10 minutes and pot it up. On purchasing mail order, I have never run into problems with any of the western (CA and AZ) nurseries. They all have a money back offer and are anxious to please. I don't order during July and August because I don't like my steaks or plants well done.

After the plant is potted, I keep it in the shade for about a week. (Did I mention I use a moderately moist mix?) After about a week it is ready for its permanent home. I check soil moisture and general condition very carefully for an additional period of time. My basic soil mix is two parts pumice, one part turface and one part coconut fiber. Be sure to mix very well.


Botany in the back yards of San Diego
By Jon P. Rebman
February 6, 2000 (Palomar C&S)

We live in one of the most biologically diverse counties in the United States. In fact, the flora of San Diego County is now registered as having 159 families, 779 genera, 2,032 species and 2,180 total plant taxa. By comparison, plant diversity in the state of South Dakota is recorded as having 115 families, 579 genera, and 1,585 plant species.

Even after hundreds of years of biological study, we are still finding new plant species and plant genera in our county. In 1997 a new genus (Sibaropsis) of native mustard plants was found in the Viejas Mountains of San Diego County, and last year another new native mustard (Arabis hirshbergiae), a narrow endemic species, was published after being discovered growing near Cuyamaca Lake by Jerilyn Hirshberg, one of our Museum's Botany Department Associates.

Last year Mike Simpson, a botany professor at San Diego State University and Kim Marsden, one of his graduate students, named and described another new plant species (Eryngium pendletonensis) from our county, which is only known from the coastal slopes and mesas of Camp Pendleton.

California is, by far, the most biologically rich state in the United States, so it may not seem too surprising that we are encountering new species to science every year. Even more remarkable is that California is probably home to more trained botanists per square mile than any other place in the world, except possibly Europe. The combination of California's history of scientific exploration and the great number of botanists who have tromped through the region, makes it very exciting to still be finding new plant taxa in the region.

The sad part of this biological revelation is that as our urban population continues to grow, the consequences of our "progress" threaten to destroy and degrade what little native habitats are left in our region of Southern California. As a result, San Diego County not only claims the greatest diversity of plant life, but also the highest number of state and federally listed rare and endangered plant species in California.

Even though San Diego is the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States, it has a "natural outdoors" and "small town" feel because it is peppered with canyon topography, offering open spaces just down the road or off our backyards. These open tracts of native habitat dissect the city into smaller developed neighborhoods, giving the appearance and feel of a more rural community.

Canyons also provide important corridors for the wild animals living within the boundaries of our city, frequently bringing them right into our own backyards. I am always proud to boast to out-of-towners that I have skunks, foxes and coyotes wandering in my neighborhood year-round. There are not many large cities in the United States that can lay claim to such an abundance of wild animals permanently living within their urban boundaries.

It was this rustic feeling that prompted me to buy a house in the North Park area, where the many canyons appease my yearning for a more country lifestyle. Raised in rural central Illinois, I always thought I would live on a remote ranch in close proximity to nature when I grew up. Although I have not yet achieved that dream, I have no regrets about coming to San Diego to live and work.

My passion for botany, proximity to Baja California and the opportunities presented to me by the San Diego Natural History Museum have changed the directions of my life, and the "outdoor feel" of San Diego has really helped to satisfy my country cravings. My rural upbringing allowed me the opportunity to experience nature first-hand. Wandering through the woods looking for snakes, plants and insects and exploring the wilds of my neighbor's pasture and creek were an almost everyday event during my childhood. I have always felt sorry for city kids who have not been able to share my same outdoor experiences. Those youthful natural adventures significantly shaped my life's goals and aspirations, especially on a professional level.

I guess that is why I was so happy the other day when returning home after a busy workday to see some roller blades, tennis shoes and socks strewn along the road just above the small stream at the bottom of Florida Canyon. I realized that some local kids had removed their footwear and were playing in the canyon, probably wading in the stream in search of frogs or exploring the vegetation at the stream's edge.

I am elated that the process of exploring nature in a natural setting continues even in an urban setting. I would like to think that those children will develop into our future biologists, or at least that their adolescent experiences with nature will initiate an appreciation for our environment that they may not have been able to otherwise experience. I hope all of us will strive to preserve the natural areas of our backyards and canyons in San Diego, not only for the sake of ecology and biodiversity, but also so they may help to mold and shape the individuals that we are or will become.

Some people find peace in the natural world, others find joy and a sense of adventure and discovery. Whatever realization or experience you may cherish from nature may still be as close as your own back yard.

Jon Rebman is curator of botany at the San Diego Natural History Museum.


Dances With Cacti
By Bobbie Irwin
From the Chinle Chapter of the Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society "Points of Interest" newsletter

I call my cacti by their Latin or common names and don't generally use "pet" names for them (such as Ralph or Squeaky). Usually I avoid anthropomorphizing anything, even when I'm traveling through a saguaro forest. But all rules have exceptions, and I have an exceptional cactus.

My husband and I planted him from a seed mix, so I don't know his heritage or generic name. It was long enough ago that I've forgotten many of the details of his youth, but I seem to remember that he was somewhat precocious from the start, sprouting and growing quickly. He's always been long and lean, and his soft whiskers are sparse and irregular, so perhaps he's of mixed parentage; he certainly doesn't look like anything in my cactus books. He's a homely fellow, about six inches long and only a third of an inch in diameter after perhaps 10 years of growth.

He'd never win a beauty contest, but what he lacks in appearance he makes up for in athleticism. Most cacti grow slowly toward the light; ours dances, or at least he used to. Turn his pot and look away for a few hours, or a couple of days, and the next thing you'd know, he'd be pointed a different direction. He'd bend at the waist, spiraling around as the spirit moved him. I've never met as limber or as mobile a cactus (with the possible exception of a jumping cholla that once attacked me in Arizona).

Although his motions were relatively rapid in cactus terms, we rarely saw him move unless he happened to bump up against something. Then, when we'd move his pot away from the obstruction, we could actually watch while he hurriedly finished his interrupted dance.

Our cactus usually moved toward the sun, which was almost his downfall. One day he danced up against a hot window and burned his head off, a most pathetic situation. Ever since that day, I've called him Icarus. I was afraid he was a goner, but he was tougher than he looked.

Icarus stopped dancing for a while, but after a couple months he sprouted a new head at a slight angle to his neck. I wondered if he might end up with multiple heads, in which case we'd have to change his name to Medusa and deal with the gender confusion, but that didn't happen.

Icarus never bloomed, so we had no idea he was pregnant, but the next thing we knew, a brand new sprout arose from his roots. His offspring (Spike) grew quickly, long and lean like his daddy, and of almost the same girth from the start, but with a more military posture. Evidently, Spike didn't inherit any dancing genes from Icarus, because we've never seen him move.

The pregnancy must have been hard on Icarus, because I've only seen him dance once in the three or four years since Spike was born. During Spike's first growth spurt, Icarus raised himself up one last time to peer down upon his baby, as though with fatherly pride, and then he lay down and has danced no more. Today Icarus remains draped over the edge of the pot as Spike continues to grow straight up, but there's still life in the old fellow. I have to think Icarus is pleased with his progeny, even if Spike shows no inclination to join him in a pas de deux.


The Visual Language of Cacti
by Harriet Olds
From the Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society "Points of Interest" newsletter

My fascination with the strange and beautiful shapes of cacti and succulent plants began with a casual acquaintance in a local greenhouse. There, I happened upon Haworthia pumila and was drawn to this rosette-shaped plant with its pattern of white, raised dots. Opportunities to see other plants like it were very limited where I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. I learned more about cacti from photos and became familiar with the Latin names in mail-order catalogs. I remember the long hours that I spent debating the purchase of each plant. As a child, I didn't have much money to spend on cacti, and I had to make every penny count. With catalogs in hand, I compared plant shapes, growing patterns, and flower form. Eventually, about twenty plants comprised my first collection. When I graduated from high school, I was so attached to my plants, I could not imagine being separated from them. That fall, my plants came with me to college in Philadelphia. I soon discovered new sources of plants in Philadelphia. My collection grew, and so did my commitment. In my junior year, I opted for a corner room in the dorm with three windows to have more room for my plants. I had my first plant sale that year, knowing that my Dad would never be able to get all the plants in the car at the end of the school year. I kept records of my cacti, where and when I got them, how much they grew, when they flowered, and a brief description of each plant. I look at my collection now and still talk to each plant as if it were my child. I feel a certain kinship with my plants.

When I left home to find a job and launch my career, I took every opportunity I could to see cacti and succulents along the way. In Florida, I found a euphorbia growing along the sidewalk. It was a giant jumble of green limbs with unfriendly spikes, making an impenetrable wall. I don't think anyone missed the small cutting I took. To my delight, it grew. In a way, this succulent reminds me of what it was like trying to find my first job in the jungle of commercial art. None of the agencies wanted to take a chance on hiring a young woman just out of college. My first job was doing classified ads for The Miami Herald on the graveyard shift. In retrospect, I was like the euphorbia cutting, placed in a small pot with no roots. I had to adapt. My visions of being an illustrator had to wait. Survival was key. Even if the job was less than I expected, it gave me a channel for growth. I still have the euphorbia cutting in my collection. Over the years, I have cut it back three times and started new plants, each one becoming more handsome than its predecessor. The parallel development of my work experience cannot go unnoticed. It too has become multifaceted and varied with time.

The kinship I feel with cacti has evolved with my growing understanding of them, their characteristics, and adaptability. I believe cacti are rugged individualists. Just like people, they grow in different shapes and sizes. Cactus stems can be spherical, cylindrical, or somewhere in between these definite shapes. Some are big and grow tall like the Saguaro of Arizona; others are miniature and squat plants like the Frailea species. Some grow in clumps (Rebutias), adding numerous pups to their girth. Others are solitary with only one main stem (Ferocactus). Some cacti branch anywhere along a stem (Opuntia) or branch centrally, low to the ground like the Organ pipecactus. Each way of growing gives the plant its unique character. A few big ribs characterize Astrophytum, while Notocactus has a multitude of small ribs. Mammillarias don't have ribs at all but tubercles -- nipples that support the areola, from which the spines grow. Spines can be broad or narrow, long or short, curved or straight. There are often different types of spines on the same plant. The spines of cholla and opuntia are barbed, making their removal painful and difficult. Some Mammillarias have hooked spines that grab you if rubbed the wrong way. Opuntia diademata have thin, papery spines. Mammillaria plumosa have soft, feathery spines. Plants with relatively few spines may look treacherous or menacing, while plants with many spines have a softer, more cuddly appearance. While some cacti are indeed gentle to the touch, others can really hurt -- regardless of how innocent they appear. When I get stuck with a cactus spine, I often think of it as a plant kiss. Repotting my plants has become less of a painful chore with this thought in mind. However, I do not like to get kissed by a strange cacti in the wild without a proper introduction.

Cacti have adapted to conditions where few other plants survive. They have evolved specialized anatomical features that store moisture in their stems and reduce water loss. All cacti are succulents -- plants that store moisture in their stems or leaves, enabling them to withstand long periods of drought. Not all succulents are cacti; only cacti have spines. Spines take the place of leaves and help protect the plant. Waxy stems also minimize water evaporation. The root system has also adapted to harsh conditions. It can consist of a long taproot reaching for water far below the desert floor, or a shallow network stretching for yards to catch dew or an infrequent desert rainfall.

Cacti don't require a lot of attention. The species is relatively free from bug and disease problems. It is far more likely that a cactus will succumb as the result of a person's well- intended TLC [Tender Loving Care]. Too much water, fertilizer, or heavy soil can kill a cactus easier than the harsh climate of its natural habitat. Visually, many cacti look distressed in their native habitat. In an attempt to protect themselves from predators and the elements, most cacti look rough and unrefined -- perhaps even appear dead. Therefore, it is incongruous to me that a plant with such characteristics would exhibit some of the most dazzling and delicate flowers in the plant kingdom. I get totally excited when a bud forms and develops on a plant that I have waited several years to see bloom. I have made special trips home at midday to see a bloom, knowing it may be closed or finished blooming in less than 24 hours. Every once in a while, I am completely fooled and discover that the plant is a night bloomer, whose flowers are fully out in the morning and closed during the heat of the day. So much of my work seems distressed or even dead when I look at it, but at times there is a period of flowering, and I feel I have created a work that seems to glow with an inner beauty. It is the cactus bloom of my work.

I have over two hundred cacti lining every sunny window of my home. Someday, I hope to have a greenhouse of my own in which to harbor my collection. But for now, I will continue my yearly ritual of placing my plants outdoors in the sunshine every summer, and before the frost, bringing them inside to winter on the window sills. I compare this physical cultivation to my own striving for growth and development as an artist. I remember that I discovered the thrill of drawing in second grade. As time went by, my art became very representational, and I was preoccupied with proving to myself that I could draw. I was intent on letting whatever I drew "speak" for itself. I believed art to be only a visual recording. Over time, I became aware that something else was present. Sometimes my art seemed stale and lifeless, but other times pieces had spirit and "spoke" a language of their own. I didn't intend for this to happen and it scared me. I questioned what I was doing. Did my work have to say something? How do I say what I want my work to say? Do I have something to say? Unable to find answers, I let these thoughts become dormant. Like a cactus in winter, I shut down, waiting for the climate to improve. Much like the sunlight and longer days of spring draw my cacti out of dormancy, I am discovering the rejuvenating sunshine of the visual language of art awakening in me a desire to communicate by illustrating my thoughts in my art.

With the discovery of the New World, cacti became sought after in Europe. They were, after all, novel plants that grew only in North and South America. Wealthy people sponsored expeditions and hired botanists to collect cacti and succulents. It was easy to transport these plants because they could survive months at sea, unpotted, with bare roots. In 1850, people paid top dollar to own one of these strange, leafless plants or to see one at a greenhouse garden. By the end of the 1800s, the increasing cost of funding expeditions, and a new enthusiasm for orchids, caused a decline in the popularity of cacti. The plants themselves remained unaffected by the lack of fanfare. Ongoing research has led to the discovery of new species, hybridization, and a deeper understanding of these plants. Likewise, enthusiasts have long supported the arts. Many a painter owes his livelihood to generous sponsors. Today, the concentration of wealth is not restricted to a few people. As a result, more people have money to spend, creating a market of consumers. This situation has brought about a revolution in art and the birth of commercial art. Unlike artists of the nineteenth century, commercial artist's clients are not individuals but companies with products to sell. Commercial art graces magazines, books, and a multitude of products. Artists have adapted to meet the needs of society. They have become savvy business people themselves, earning a living in a high-pressure and very demanding business. Today's artists are adept in changing and developing, not unlike a cactus that has adapted itself to grow in a hostile environment. The trick is maintaining a surprisingly delicate bloom, no matter how challenging the climate.

Jpegs of my cactus artwork are available for publication with this article. Limited edition prints are also available. Please contact me at

Samples: Lobivia   Notocactus   Opuntia   Spike

Harriet Olds


Chuck Staples
2001 Mid-Iowa C&SS

1.  Taxonomy is the science of classification, which in botany is
synonymous with systematic botany or arrangement of plants according to
natural relationships:
    __  True __  False

2.  This taxonomist worked primarily with cacti:
    a.  Curt Backeberg (1894-1966)
    b.  Friedrich Boedeker (1867-1937)
    c.  Robert Craig (1902-1986)
    d.  All of the above

3.  This taxonomist worked primarily with (other) succulents:
    a.  Louisa Bolus (1877-1970)
    b.  Antoine Lemaire (1800-1871)
    c.  Albert Weber (1830-1903)
    d.  All of the above

4.  Genera Aporocactus, Astrophytum,Cleistocactus, Coryphantha,
Schlumbergera & Tephrocactus were technically described by this
    a.  Antoine Lemaire (1800-1871)
    b.  Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1777)
    c.  Edgar Lamb (1905-1980)
    d.  Louisa Bolus (1877-1970)

5.  Genera Conophytum, Delosperma, Fenestraria, Frithia, Gibbaeum,
Lithops, Pleiospilos & Trichocaulon were technically described by
this taxonomist:
    a.  Louisa Bolus (1877-1970)
    b.  John R Brown (1885-1977)
    c.  Nicholas E Brown (1849-1934)
    d.  Alwin Berger (1871-1931)

6.  Genera Apatesia, Aridaria, Carpobrotus, Cheiridopsis, Eripsia,
Glottiphyllum, Huerniopsis & Oophytum were technically described
by this taxonomist:
    a.  Louisa Bolus (1877-1970)
    b.  John R Brown (1885-1977)
    c.  Nicholas E Brown (1849-1934)
    d.  Alwin Berger (1871-1931) 

7.  The taxonomist that described the genus Agave and
the species Agave americana was:
    a.  Philip Miller (1691-1771)
    b.  Howard Gentry (1903-1993)
    c.  Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1777)
    d.  Wm Trelease (1857-1945) 

8.  Agave lechuguilla has an extensive habitat range from:
    a.  Southeastern New Mexico & southwestern Texas south through
	the Chihuahuan Desert into south central Mexico.
    b.  Central & southern Arizona south through the Sonoran Desert
	along the Gulf of California to Mazatlan in the state of Sinaloa,

9.  Pollinators of the succulent genus Agave are probably:
    a.  bats & hummingbirds
    b.  horses & cows
    c.  eagles & hawks
    d.  flies & wasps

10.  Who wrote the 1982 book "AGAVES of Continental North America"?
    a.  Charles Glass (1934-1998)
    b.  John Donald (1923-1996)
    c.  Robert Craig (1902-1986)
    d.  Howard Gentry (1903-1993)

11.  The length of leaves on Agave pygmae can be this long:
    a.  1 to 2 inches
    b.  5 to 11 inches
    c.  11 to 20 inches
    d.  2 to 3 feet

12.  The succulent genus Brachystelma belongs in the
    same family as the genus Ceropegia:
    ___ True
    ___ False

13.  The succulent genus Dudleya belongs in the Compositae family:
    ___ True
    ___ False

14.  The succulent genus Pedilanthus belongs in the Pedalicaceae family:
    ___ True
    ___ False

15.  The natural habitat of succulent genus Pachypytum is in:
    a. Mexico
    b. Argentina
    c. South Africa
    d. Madagascar

16.  The natural habitat of a species of the succulent genus Orostachys
    can be found in this country:
    a. France
    b. Japan
    c. Arabia
    d. Australia

17.  The succulent genus Rabiea is a dwarf compact glabrous mesemb found
    in South Africa and is named after this Reverand:
    a.  Revd WA Rabie
    b.  Revd WA Rabi

18.  Rabiea was first described by:
    a.  Louisa Bolus (1877-1970)
    b.  Albert Weber (1830-1903)
    c.  Nicholas E Brown (1849-1934)
    d.  Theophrastus (370BC-286BC)

19.  Who is publisher and editor of The Euphorbia Journals?
    a.  Herman Schwartz
    b.  Seymour Linden
    c.  Ron LaFon
    d.  Myron Kimnach

20.  A major explorer of Euphorbias in Africa was:
    a.  Curt Backeberg (1894-1966)
    b.  Nathaniel Britton (1859-1934)
    c.  Harry Hall (1906-1986)
    d.  All of the above

Answers to Quiz Time #22

1. True.
2. d. All of the above.
3. a.  Louisa Bolus.  She was a South African botanist that described
some 1,700 species of succulents, primarily Mesembs.  Her father-in-law
was Harry Bolus (1834-1911) who founded the Bolus Herbarium at the
University of Cape Town where she became curator from 1904 to 1955.  She
was awarded a FELLOW of USA CSSA in 1969.
4. a. Antoine Lemaire.  All cacti.
5. c. Nicholas E Brown.  All 'other succulents'.
6. c. Nicholas E Brown.  He described over 60 genera of 'other succulents'.
7. c. Carolus Linnaeus - in 1753.
8. a.  Southeastern New Mexico & southwestern Texas south through the
Chihuahuan Desert into central Mexico.
9. a. bats & hummingbirds.
10.  d. Howard Gentry.
11.  b. 5 to 11 inches.
12.  True.  They both belong in the Asclepiadaceae family.
13.  False.  Dudleya belongs in the Crassulaceae family.
14.  False.  Pedilanthus belongs in the Euphorbiaceae family.
15.  a. Mexico.
16.  b. Japan.  Orostachys iwarenge is native to Japan.
17.  a.  Revd WA Rabie.  The genus Rabiea is found in the Orange Free
State, South Africa.
18.  c. Nicholas E Brown.
19.  a. Herman Schwartz.  He also published the Gordon Rowley books
Caudiciform & Pachycaul Succulents in 1987 and A History of Succulent
Plants in 1997.
20.  c. Harry Hall.  Born in England, he immigrated to South Africa in
1947 and became a botanist at National Botanic Garden in Kirstenbosch,
S Africa.  He was awarded a FELLOW of USA CSSA in 1981.

    20         First Rate
    18-19      Top-notch
    16-17      Worth-while
    14-15      Run-of-the-mill
  13 or less   Need-more-study