by Peter Lapshin
|CULTIVAR / КУЛЬТИВАР|
e-Magazine about exotic forms of Cactaceae
ENGLISH / RUS-(Win1251)
Green hedgehogs, Miracles in a cacti world
by Georgy Volsky
Mexico often name the country of cacti. Already at the first mention of it in your imagination there are stony droughty plains, pyramids of Aztecs, snow-covered tops of volcanoes and, of course, cactuses. Not without reason on the State Emblem of Mexico the cactus the Prickly pear is represented. Such symbol is not present more at one country in the world.
Mexico consider as the native land about thousand kinds of cactuses. It almost a quarter of all known. But the most surprising that Mexico at all is not the original native land of cacti as it was accepted to consider earlier. Modern researches have shown that the centre of occurrence of family Cactaceae Central America, and therefrom prickly inhabitants of terrestrial flora were gradually settled on the north and the south.
The Nature as though has fifty-fifty divided between northern and southern hemispheres the cacti miracles. Natives of the South America are distinguished by more dark colouring, black and brown prickles. To the South America the nature has presented the smallest cactus centimetric Blossfeldiju, and Mexico - huge twenty meters Karnegii and huge prickly spheres Echinocactus.
Miracles in a cacti world
Today we should get acquainted with the strange cacti occupying Mexico. Prepare - to you there will be a set of unfamiliar names.
So, we at coast of Gulf of Mexico. Here it is damp and hot. The thermometer shows plus of twenty eight degrees. In rainforests of state of Veracruz grow hygrophilous epiphytic cacti. In a twilight it is difficult to distinguish white flowers epiphytic cacti from the solar patches of light sliding on a damp surface of leaves of the next trees.
But it is time to us further. Our way lies on the southwest, in state of Puebla. We rise in mountains Sierra Madre Orientals, a huge mountain chain which was stretched along all east coast of Mexico. Here is more cool and more chilly, but in the summer, from April till September, there are rains. Having overcome pass, we go down in a valley of Teuakana. It is the present natural botanical garden where continually there are all new and new cactuses. On limy volcanic soils many-domed groups Mamillaria grow. Here at a stone a bright stain it is allocated yellow head with Mamillaria flavicentra (photo 4). All known kinds of this group grow in Mexico, and them more than three hundred almost.
We Will verify a way on a card and we will move further on the north, to staff of the Hidalgo. We - on plateau Meksikana. The most part of territory of Mexico lies in mountains and on plateaus. It is a temperate climate zone, here live more than twenty kinds Thelocactus (papillary), and one of the most beautiful - Thelocactus erenbergii (photo 1). The small grey-green plant with strongly hilly edges blossoms large pink colours. On its some relatives growing nearby, have already ripened fruits. We will collect them in bags and we will specify a gathering place. We can sow seeds at home. They well grow on the roots and blossom for the fourth-fifth year of a life. Here in the Hidalgo grows thin stem Aporocactus flagelliformis (whip-like). It fist on stony soil or hangs down from crevices of rocks where accumulates hardly more than the nutritious earth and a moisture. It covers a lack of water at the expense of a moisture collected by air roots. Aporocactus well grows in rooms, and often it cultivate as hangs plant. Karminno-red flowers of this cactus (photo 6) keep opened to four days. But watch a plant especially attentively: in dry room air it often amazes red spider.
The Mexican plateau - the native land enormous Echinocactus. On dry stony slopes of hills of the Central Mexico one of the most well-known and beautiful cacti - "a gold sphere", Echinocactus gruzonii (photo 2) grows. Botany know it from the end of the last century, and earlier it met in these parts much. Indians of a tribe otomi attacked everyone who tried to damage or destroy fructifying Echinocactus. In the middle of our century of a plant have undergone to injurious destruction. Europeans dug out of the earth н took away for sale of hundred small "gold spheres". Their number began to fall sharply, and usual once the plant became a rarity in the homeland. And in room and hothouse collections it, on the contrary, became during the last years extended enough. And here that is strange - many fans of cactuses any more do not consider as its rarity, without reflecting that occurs to Echinocactus gruzonii on its native land. Fortunately, its export from Mexico is strictly forbidden by the governmental decree.
In rooms of Echinocactus gruzonii grows slowly, the open sun and fresh air demands many. The ten years' plant happens no more a children's ball. But this sphere with golden-yellow prickles in length to three centimetres and white down on top - an excellent ornament of any collection. Only remember that in the spring the cactus should be accustomed to the sun very cautiously, shadow at first: it easily burns.
On high-mountainous plateaus of the Central Mexico one more giant - Echinocactus ingens grows also, as "huge" means in transfer. On limy slopes and taluses these two-metre prickly cylinders meet in hundreds. They love slopes where rain water is not late. A ground under them loose - a mix of rubble with известью and gravel. Therefore many of plants, strongly having become stronger long roots on a slope, were bent and have taken the form of a pipe.
The Name of other sort of the Mexican cactuses living in staff of the Hidalgo, - Ferocactus. It occurs from a word "ferus" that means wild, furious. So these cactuses for the powerful prickles are named. Ferocactus glaucescens (photo 3) too it is possible to name "a gold sphere". Only it has less than edges, than at Echinocactus gruzonii, yes flowers yellow. Unlike the majority of others Ferocactus it blossoms early enough, for the eighth-tenth year of a life. But for this purpose in the winter it should be held at temperature not above ten degrees and not to water at all. After all on its native land at this time year of rains does not drop out at all, and the temperature falls sometimes below zero.
Our attention will be necessarily involved with white-haired columns of Cephalocereus cenilis (senile) which tower on ten-fifteen metres over Echinocactusi growing around. And this Cereus grows here on very limy soils, as promotes formation of a dense woolly cover from long mixed white hair. Such unusual prickles at it. We will approach more close to ten-metre Cephalocereus and we will try to rock cautiously it at the basis. At once it is appreciable, by what it flexible and elastic - the top will start to be shaken strongly. The matter is that at Cephalocereus very soft trunk, even in it is not formed with the years wood. It grows very slowly. With what we have got acquainted, already very respectable age, to it is not less two hundreds years.
Now our way lies in states of San Luis Potosi, Queretaro and Sakatekas who occupy the centre of the Mexican plateau. All the summer long here various prickly pears plentifully blossom. In heavy clay soil the Opuntia azurea (azure) has become stronger. Its large flat flat cakes-stalks are covered by is bright-blue wax touch. On one of them than ten flowers at once (look the first page of a cover) opens at times more. Long black prickles with the white end decorate this prickly pear, but they remain only on young top areolas. In dry months of year stalks of prickly pears often serve as a unique forage for cattle. Local residents cut off them, burn over a fire flame to remove prickles, and feed to horses and donkeys. After thermal processing burn down not only large central prickles, but also the most dangerous small jagged needles in glochidias. Fruits of prickly pears - large juicy berries with pleasant sweet-sour taste. It is possible to eat them crude, to cook from them jam, kissels, candied fruits, having removed preliminary all prickles.
Opuntia very widespread across all Mexico, and here a small cactus of Peleciphora acelliformis (photo 10) grows only in state of San Luis Potosi. The word "Peleciphora" means in a Greek way "bearing ax", and the specific name "acelliformis" is translated as "multiped similar". Isn't that so, the strange name for a cactus! But take a magnifier and consider this beautiful plant more close. Its firm growth papilliferous really remind small axes, and on their ends the wood louse has as though hidden present many legs. Cautiously touch Peleciphora a hand - absolutely even not prickly this grey-green plant, only very firm. And in the homeland, and in room collections it meets seldom.
High candle-like cactus with bluish touch which has got to us on a way, - Mirtillocactus. It blossoms small yellow florets (photos 5) which after pollination give the small berries similar to grapes, only grow they one by one. And the name of a plant means "a berry cactus". Sweet berries of Mirtillocactus are on sale on the Mexican markets both fresh, and dry. Dried up on the sun, they are similar to raisin.
Travelling on staff of Tamaulipas, we will meet a small cactus with grey down on top and large violet colours. It is rare Encefalocarpus strobilliformis (photo 7) - "head fetus pineal". It is indeed similar to a young fir cone - so densely adjoin to each other its small tile like papilliferous. Fruits of this cactus ripen directly on top and dry up there, remaining deeply hidden in a wool. From here and the name "head fetus".
In mountains Sierra Madre Orientals grows Mammillaria melanocentra with bluish-black central prickles, and not far from it on stony slopes it is possible to meet Wilcoxia tamaulipensis (photo 8). Its thin upright small stalks bear fine pink flowers on the ends. They serve as though as direct continuation of a stalk. Such arrangement of colours you will not often meet at cactuses.
In the north of Mexico we will find out two more very rare related each other a cactus. Ariokarpus trigonus it is possible to translate the name of as "rowan fruit triangular". It has received the specific name for the triangular form papilla, well and patrimonial speaks for itself. Roseocactus fissuratus (furrowed) opens pink flowers in the size to four centimetres (photo 9). Both these of a cactus grey-brown and well mask among surrounding stones.
Now we should visit in the northwest of Mexico, droughty deserts Chihuahuas and Sonora. Desert Sonora - the country of the huge Carnegia named here saguaro. These giants with large white as though wax colours can reach heights of the seven-story house. Their branched out as candelabrums, trunks reach for the sky. It seems, as if, having upraised hands, they ask about mercy. Such impression quite reasonably. For these last decades, apparently, eternal and invincible multiton giants almost are half exterminated and not only during development of deserts, but also is simple tourists. Recently the area of distribution of Carnegia is declared by national reserve.
Now we needed to cross gulf of California and to finish travel across Mexico on peninsula the Bottom California. Here on coastal plains, in drift sands we will notice at once the unusual cactus, which thick stalks trail by the ground, and their end is inflexed. From afar it seems that the huge caterpillar creeps on sand. On a surface of a lying stalk from areols lateral roots are formed, the old part of a stalk then dies off, young grows further. The cactus as if slowly moves, overcoming every year to semimeter. It are Machaerocereus eruca that in transfer means "dagger cereus caterpillar". Its sharp, recurved prickles really remind daggers. Machaerocereus grow the whole colonies in which from the general centre - the former basic trunk - as spokes at a wheel, creep away on radiuses young stalks. Among them have chosen to itself a place for holes of a fox. Sharp prickles of a cactus in a combination to known fox cunning - reliable protection against gatecrashers. Machaerocereus often specially put for fastening of sand and prevention of erosion of soils. Bright red fruits of this plant use in food.
Our travel on the remarkable world of the Mexican cacti has come to an end. Having come back to your room prickly favourites, you already will know more about the nature of Mexico and about interesting features of prickly creations occupying it.
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