In This Issue:

Echeveria Laui
by Thomas Schwink, Indianola, Iowa, January 2000
From Mid-Iowa C&SS

From the Beaver's Tale, C&S of Southern Nevada
Rhipsalis
by Terry Goevert
Ice Plants
by Pete Duncombe


The Rosy Red Cheeks Of The Little Ones
By Art Scarpa
From the CSSM News, C&S Society of Massachusetts

Surfing the Net for C & S
By Mike Rupe
From The Cacto-Files, C&S Society of Austin

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Echeveria Laui
by Thomas Schwink, Indianola, Iowa, January 2000
From Mid-Iowa C&SS

Echeveria laui is my favorite Echeveria, and many other people also think highly of this species. In volume 16, number one (March 1998) of the British Cactus and Succulent Journal, John Pilbeam wrote the following (pages 8-9): The best of these has got to be E. laui, named after Alfred Lau, who has brought us so many plants from the wilds of Mexico. He certainly picked a good one to have named for him in this absolutely stunning species. It comes far from the beaten track in Oaxaca, and has everything, being comparatively slow growing, almost stemless, not too large (getting to about 23 cm across), a lovely pale blue, with as thick a covering of farina as any species, and with the ability to reduce to mush in a matter of hours it seems, if watering is excessive, or is allowed to stand around the base of the plant for too long, or indeed at all. In addition the shorter flower spike is itself a shepherd's crook of pink flowers, also heavily farina covered. If you set out to design the most beautiful Echeveria you would have difficulty in designing a better one.

The chief problem that I have had with this species is that visitors cannot seem to resist touching it, and this mars the powder (farina) coating. I entered two plants of this species in our last show and, despite the -- do not touch -- signs, some people touched them. When this happens, however, the damage is not permanent. When the plants are actively growing the leaves that were touched can be replaced in a few months and the appearance of the plant is then as good as it was before it was touched.

Before getting to the chief thing that I want to cover, namely growing this species, I want to comment about the short flower spike referred to in the article cited above. The flower spike on my plants can keep growing for a long period of time and eventually it can become quite long.

I grow these plants chiefly under Metal Halide lights. Indoors under these lights the plants are less likely to be marred than when they are in my greenhouse where they are more subject to damage from me accidentally brushing against them and can also be marred by insects crawling over them or by other things such as splattering of water onto their leaves. However, under the lights they have never flowered and to get flowers (and seeds) I had to move the plants that I wanted to flower into my greenhouse.

This species does not normally offset, and propagation is thus by means of seeds, leaf cutting, or by beheading plants and rooting the resulting new growth. To produce seeds I pollinate the flowers using a moist artist's brush. I do not really know just how long it takes for the seeds to mature after pollination For me the seeds have never been released spontaneously. When I think that the seeds are mature, about 3 months after pollination, I crush the seed pods with my fingers to free the seeds. I then use a fine (o.5mm) tea strainer to separate the seeds from the larger pieces of chaff. The seeds are very small and pass through the strainer, along with the smaller pieces of chaff (I do not know if chaff is the correct term). What passes through the strainer is about 75% chaff and 25% seeds. I do not know how to remove this small chaff, but this does not really matter since it does not seem to interfere with germination of the seeds. Germination of my seed is comparable to that obtained with purchased seeds.

The seedlings are very small and grow very slowly at first. During the first two months or so, until they become established and develop true leaves, the seedlings are very susceptible to damping off. Although I use a fungicide (Benomyl) there are always some losses during this early period. After about 2 months, when the seedlings begin to grow at an increasingly rapid rate, there are few if any losses. As they grow larger they grow faster, and mature plants are commonly produced within 2 years after sowing the seeds.

Leaf cuttings can also be used for propagation of this species. As with most plants that can be propagated by leaf cuttings, leaves from young plants work best. I usually use leaves that are about inch across or slightly larger. They are removed from the parent plant by gentle back-and-forth sideways motion until they snap off. Results are better if the leaf can be removed so that the cutting includes a small part of the main stem where the leaf is attached, but this is not usually practical. The leaves are not potted up when first removed, but are placed in a warm, moderately lit location until a new plantlet forms at the base of the cutting. If the leaves are potted up right after they are removed they are more likely to rot. Every leaf does not produce a new plant. Last summer I made 5 leaf cuttings from young plants with leaves about inch across. Two of these leaves produced plantlets, which were potted up and are doing well. Two produced only roots and were eventually discarded. The 5th leaf did not produce either roots or a plantlet.

Plants grown directly from seed are always or nearly always single-headed. Plants grown from leaf cutting sometimes have more than one growing points.

Older plants with stems can be beheaded and they then develop new growing points. These new growths can be removed and rooted to produce new plants. Last fall I beheaded the plant that won first place in its class at the Midwest conference in 1998 and it now has two new growing points. I will soon be removing these new growths and rooting them to produce new plants. I also have seeds produced by from cross pollination of this plant and another, as well as seedlings from these seeds.

The desirable things about this species include its not being bothered by such common pests as mealy bugs, thrips, and mites. The heavy coating of powder is distasteful to these pests and they normally do not feed on this species. They might possibly do so if they had nothing else to eat, I suppose.

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Rhipsalis
by Terry Goevert
From the Beaver's Tale, C&S of Southern Nevada

Rhipsalis are epiphytic (plants that grow upon something) cacti in the Hylocereae Family or Tribe (depends on your botany book). Other epicacti in the family include Epiphyllums (a.k.a. Orchid Cacti) that are grown for their spectacular flowers, Schlumbergera (a.k.a. Christmas Cactus) and Rhipsalidopsis (Easter Cacti). There are also the Hylocereus and Selenecereus that are climbers with huge (8-15") white flowers that open at night.

Rhipsalis are native to the rain and cloud forests of Central & South America. They are from countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Uruguay. Then again, there are some that are found in Florida. They like humidity and partial shade. They would be really happy if I could haul all mine out of the greenhouse and let them sit in the rains that we have been enjoying

They will freeze in below freezing temps. They like good drainage, like other cacti, but they probably would take more water than a similar sized desert cacti.

Rhipsalis come in a variety of forms. There are about 60 species. The most common and prolific are the cylindrical stems types. There are also three-four and five sided stems, small stems with scalloped edges, in varying sizes and shades or green or red. There are some flat stemmed types that resemble mini-Epiphyllums. There are also a few upright species. Most have no spines, so are very friendly plants. Most have small (pea sized) cream to white colored flowers. A few have slightly larger flowers.

The nickname for Rhipsalis is "Mistletoe Cactus" because the common Rhip, baccifera, often has lots of tiny white fruit on the plant. A Rhip baccifera with fruit, really does look a lot like a chunk of mistletoe.

They make good houseplants if they get some filtered sunlight from a window, and they don't need to be watered as often as "normal" houseplants like philodendrons or Swedish Ivy.

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Ice Plants
by Pete Duncombe
From the Beaver's Tale, C&S of Southern Nevada

The succulent groundcovers known as ice plants are typically low, spreading ground covers not more than 8 inches high. They are used in the desert garden to reduce the area of turf, control erosion and to provide vibrant color in the landscape. The brilliantly colored flowers produce a vivid carpet of color in bright sunlight, but remain closed on overcast days. The long lasting bloom generally takes place in the spring to summer and continue for a month of more.

Ice plants are especially valued for their ability to produce masses of color in their bloom season. Many varieties and also valuable in terms of erosion control on slopes. If you ever travel to Southern California you'll recognize that ice plant is grown extensively along the freeways there. They are not used as extensively in Southern Nevada though, because in really cold years ice plants can freeze here. In most years they don't have any trouble carrying through the winter, and are generally hardy enough to be considered perennials here. Even if not, they grow so rapidly and produce such a show that it is worth planting a patch or two the yard. Just don't be two reliant on them or you will be in for a let down at some point.

It can be confusing to select ice plants in the nursery because of poor labeling and many varieties to choose from. It is important to consider not only the flowering but also how the plant will look when it is not in bloom. Large leaf types are generally too course for the home garden. Some of the best varieties for the desert are Carpobrotus, Cephalophyllum, Drosanthemum and Malephora.

Hottentot Fig - Carpobrotus edulis has big but sparse flowers. Out of bloom, it appears as a bulky, dark green mat of fat, fleshy finger-length leaves. The course texture looks generally out of place in most gardens. It is the ubiquitous freeway ground cover that is prominent along the California freeways.

Red Spike Ice Plant - Cephalophyllum "Red Spike" gives a brilliant early show of 2-inch cerise blooms in January to Mid-March. The pointed, gray-green leaves stick up when out of bloom and form clumps 3 to 5 inches high. Because plants don't spread much it provide little in the way of erosion protection. It is useful in small spaces and works well in borders. Plant 6 inches apart to fill in.

Rosea Ice Plant -- Drosanthemum Species has tiny but incredibly profuse flowering in late spring to early summer. The pink-to-purple blossoms occur literally in sheets of radiant color that takes your breath away. When not in bloom, the long trailing stems, of tiny glistening leaves, root to form a spongy mat, 6 to 8 inches thick. The lightweight and ready rooting ability makes Drosanthemum an ideal groundcover for steep slopes. It can also trail over a wall and is useful as a lawn substitute.

Yellow Trailing Ice Plant -- Malephora luteola gives more of a sparse, but long lasting bloom. It has probably the best all-year round foliage because it is fine textured. This handsome groundcover works well for small or large flat areas to moderately steep slopes.

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The Rosy Red Cheeks Of The Little Ones
By Art Scarpa
From the CSSM News, C&S Society of Massachusetts

After many years of dreaming, I finally was able to build my own greenhouse about 12 years ago. I knew that it would become my winter refuge and indeed it has. It is a great responsibility, since I am obliged to stay close to home during the coldest part of the year, for fear of losing heat and subsequently my whole collection in a matter of hours.

The responsibility, however, has some marvelous rewards. There is nothing that can compare with spending a Saturday or Sunday out in the greenhouse during a sunny mid-winter day. And though many of the plants aren't very attractive during their dormancy (I've been told that neither am I!), others are at their peak of color.

There are many succulents which put on a show of beautiful colors during winter, and I have been fortunate to have many which are at their prime during winter dormancy, including aloes, astrolobas, gasterias, haworthias, echeverias and euphorbias.

I spend hours admiring this winter spectacle and have to admit that the haworthias are among my favorites. I spent a while choosing some of the most colorful and the winners are:

Haworthias
H. aristata
H. aspera 
H. coarctata, v. coarcatata ssp greenii
H. cooperi
H. correcta
H. cymbiformis
H. dekenahii
H. emelyae
H. glauca
H. koelmaniorum
H. limifolia ubomboensis
H. limifolia v. limifolia
H. magnifica
H. magnifica v splendens
H. mirabilis
H. monticola
H. pumila
H. pygmaea 
H. retusa
H. retusa 'Chocolate' 
H. revendetii
H. sordida v. keithii
H. splendens 
H. subrigularis
H. tortuosa v. tortella
H. triebneriana v. lanceolota
H. truncata
H. truncata 'Sizunami'
H. turgida
H. viscosa
H. zantneriana
Got to run. Many of the plants are awakening and the spring show is about to begin. Happy Growing!

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Surfing the Net for C & S
By Mike Rupe
From The Cacto-Files, C&S Society of Austin

They say one can find just about anything on the internet these days and succulent lovers have an almost endless resource in the world wide web.

Perhaps the best place to start is The Cactus and Succulent Plant Mall (www.cactus-mall.com). This website has an amazing amount of info in it including links to web pages around the globe. You can look at nationally based society pages including The Cactus and Succulent Society of America, The British Cactus and Succulent Society and The Succulent Society of South Africa. There are specialist society pages like The Euphorbiaceae Study Group, The Haworthia Society, and The Mammillaria Society. There are links to periodicals including Aloe (South Africa), The Amateurs' Digest (Canada) and Cactus & Co. (Italy). Book publishers like Rainbow Gardens and Strawberry Press have websites where one can order books directly. Nurseries from around the world including Conos Paradise (Germany), SuccSeed (Sweden) and Brookside Nursery (England) as well as American nurseries like Arid Lands Greenhouses, Bob Smoley's Gardenworld, Grigsby Cactus Gardens, Mesa Gardens and Miles' To Go have extensive pages.

Another great place to start a succulent information search is The Succulent Plant Page (www.graylab.ac.uk/usr/hodgkiss/succule.html). At this website one can find a list of upcoming cactus and succulent events, hints on growing cacti and succulents, directions for raising cacti and succulents from seed, cactus recipes and photographs of all kinds of cacti and succulents.

If you want to have direct contact with other cactophiles, Cacti_etc.
(http://www.labs.agilent.com/bot/cactus_home)
is the place to go. This site is a mailing list where one can write a message which is added to the list each day. This can be a great source of information as there are people from around the world who participate and can respond to questions you might post. There are excellent articles on this site as well covering topics such as biological controls and the evolution of cacti as well as images of cacti and succulents.

Another mailing list to participate in is The Cacti and Succulent Forum (www.gardenweb.com/forums/cacti). This website has other valuable information and links to other cactus and succulent resources.

So, don't be shy. Dive right in and explore the endless wealth of information the internet has to offer for cactus and succulent lovers. Surf's up!

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