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ISSUE 3 (13):

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Reprinted from the Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.), Vol. 68, 1996, p. 245 with the kind permission of Myron Kimnach, the Editor.
NOTICE: The article is published without photographs

Aikichi Kobayashi
Editor, The Succulent Society of Japan
19-16, 2-bancho, Kurakuen
Nishinomiya 662, Japan


Two extraordinary Japanese strains or cultivar groups of Astrophytum asterias, 'Super Kabuto' and 'Miracle Kabuto', are gradually becoming available in the U.S. and Europe. However, there has been some question as to whether they are hybrids or natural mutations. Robert Maijer of the Netherlands wrote me that among his seedlings of 'Super Kabuto' only ca. 30% were typical, the rest being normal-spotted and non-spotted A asterias (pers. comm., 1993). K. Sakai, a Japanese cactus nurseryman, told me that the same results occurred in Japan.

It is well known in Japan that the original Kabuto plants originated as natural mutations in habitat. I will briefly relate their stories here.

'Super Kabuto'

T. Sato (1986, 1993) related that M. Takeo found the parent plant of 'Super Kabuto' in 1981 in a U.S. nursery, where the plant had turned yellow from neglect. Nevertheless, its large white dots were remarkable. Under Takeo's care, the plant re-rooted and bloomed the next year. About 30% of its first hundred seedlings had similar dots. Sato bought the parent plant and all the seedlings and gave them the name of 'Super Kabuto'. He first offered them in his nursery catalog of April 1983.

Regretfully, the original plant died, but many offspring survived. M. Takeo created many seedlings from crosses with A. asterias. Some of these strains showed distinctive characteristics and were called 'Super Snow White' and 'Zebra' (or 'Tiger'). The 'Snow White'strain had very dense dots entirety covering the stem, while in 'Zebra' they formed bands of dots. The late A. Shimizu (1994) noted that these two strains arose from crossing with densely dotted clones of A. asterias. In the early crossings some of the parents were not true A. asterias and therefore spiny clones often appeared.

Of course 'Super Kabuto' is distinguished by its large white dots, but the following differences have also been noted (Sato, 1986, 1993, Shimizu 1994):

  1. Its genetic influence on subsequent hybrids is strong, although T. Sato (1993) created intermediate forms and some typical A. asterias forms often appeared in the F2 and later generations. I believe that 'Super Kabuto' should be classified as a strain.
  2. The dots are fluffy.
  3. The epidermis is harder than in the normal form of Kabuto and cracks easily.
  4. The stem is small, the diameter of the parent plant being only 8 cm.
  5. The areoles are small.

Breeders of Kabuto try to obtain larger stems and areoles without any epidermal cracking, but this is very difficult to do.

'Miracle Kabuto'

In 1980 the parent plant of 'Miracle Kabuto' was also introduced by M. Takeo, who had found it among many field-collected plants of A. asterias in a U.S. nursery. It also was named by T. Sato, as Miracle Kabuto. It is well-known that the original plant was sold for three million yen! I am happy to report that this plant is still alive. The differences from 'Super Kabuto' are as follows:

  1. The stem is large, presently being 19 cm thick and l6 cm tall.
  2. The white dots are not fluffy.
  3. Reproduction from seeds is very difficult.

The dots near the base of the original plant are small, as in normal A. asterlas. T. Sato (1986) thought that the characteristics of 'Miracle Kabuto' would appear only in a large mature plant. The photograph in Cacti by C. Innes and C. Glass (1991) is of 'Super Kabuto', not 'Miracle Kabuto'. Because the photo is labeled "Mirakuru Kabuto" ("mirakuru" means miracle), the plant must have been obtained from a Japanese, who probably confused the two. At present no Miracle seedling is obtainable, even in Japan.

There is another 'Miracle Kabuto' strain in Japan. The most beautiful specimen adorned the front cover of Kabuto, published by the Kabutophile Society of Japan. This clone is referred to as 'Miracle Kabuto F2'. Its correct origin is uncertain. Its dots differ from those of typical 'Miracle Kabuto' in being rather similar to those of 'Super Kabuto'. Some nurserymen claim that this second strain is not the true 'Miracle Kabuto' and the name therefore should not be used. However, kabuto-philes decided to use the name 'Miracle Kabuto F2', until the original clone became available. If it does not contain genes of the original clone, then it is simply a superb seedling of A. asterias.


In Japan, Astrophytum myriostigma is only called by its popular name, rampo-gyoku, or, more briefly, rampo. There are some unique cultivars of this species that originated in Japan.

'Onzuka Rampo'

The most famous of these cultivars appeared as bi-product of three-ribbed A. myriostigma, a plant much-desired by all cactus enthusiasts. Upon maturity the three-ribbed form usually becomes four- or five-ribbed (the typical form). T. Onzuka worked on stabilizing the three-ribbed character. In 1979 he wrote:

"I bought a 4-ribbed plant ("A") from S. Yoshinaga, a famous breeder of A. myriostigma. "A" was three-ribbed when juvenile; by crossing it with another three-ribbed plant of A. myriostigma ("B"), which later increased the number of its ribs, I obtained about a hundred seeds. Among the seedlings was one clone ("C") with large dots, and in 1976 I crossed C with A and also with a separate clone without large dots. Of the hundreds of seeds resulting, about 5% had large dots."

This strain is called 'Onzuka Rampo' after the breeder. Sato (1980) stated that there were several forms of 'Onzuka Rampo': (1) with dense large white dots, (2) with sparse large white dots, (3) with dots forming horizontal stripes, and (4) with fluffy dots.

Although Onzuka did not mention it, many enthusiasts point out that 'Onzuka Rampo' has genes of A. myriostigma var. tutensis, in maturity it develops columnar stems.

'Koyo Rampo'

The Koyo strain first arose in Nakamura's collection. S. Yoshinaga stabilized its characters by hybridizing through several generations. This distinctive strain has a deep orange body, especially in winter, and it becomes paler or yellow in summer. Its name refers to the seasonal change in color, similar to that occurring in autumn leaves (koyo, in Japanese).

This variegation occurs only in young plants. When becoming over 7 cm in diameter, the plants turn green (Sato, 1980, 1994).

'Hanakayo Rampo'

This extraordinary cultivar is one of the latest created in Japan. It arose from many crossings around 1990. "Hanakayo" is the popular name for Aztekium ritteri (Sato, 1991).


I thank M. Nishi and K. Sakai for their assistance and T. Sato for permission to reproduce some of his photographs.


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