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Cacti: Writing a Book Together:

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This article is a part of Cultivar's projest: Cacti - Writing a Book Together
(section "Popular about cacti")

Underground world of cacti

Georgy Volsky, Ph.D, biology

About translation of this article:
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The photo Lobiv tigeliana, originally from South America, grows well in the room. You need only to keep the health of the root system, as well, and all other cacti.

When early spring cactus wakes up after the winter holidays, we admire fresh greens on his top, to see new young thorns, rejoice in the appearance of buds. But often forget that part of the plant, which is hidden under the ground - the root of the system.

Healthy, well-developed root system of cacti, perhaps the most important condition for the life of children spiny desert. The roots of plants serve many purposes: they suck up water and dissolved in the mineral salts necessary for the food, perpetuate a plant in the soil, often in a store organic matter, creating like stock «for a rainy day». In addition, they take one more very important function: many cacti store in roots and water.

The first thing you will notice in examining the root system of cacti and its clear division into two parts. Some roots, their little, leaving rather deep in the earth. They serve as a time to build on the cactus in the soil, which in their home countries often very friable and loose. Imagine what a load must withstand these «anchor» roots to keep, say, ten meters Cereus Carnegia gigantea, which weighs several tons! And not just to hold and not allow it to fall during a severe tropical storms. Powerful «anchor» roots have many Ehinokaktusy, especially if they grow up on a hill slope of lime, finished crumble under the weight of the cactus. Yes, those roots, strong, thick and strong, played a very big role in cacti adapt to desert environments. But ... Still, they are not sufficiently long to reach the groundwater, which lie in the desert is very deep. Saxaul, for example, their long roots extracts moisture directly from the ground. Cactuses been tricky. Why spend due to the growth of roots inside, when the moisture can get easier?

Remember how drastically different temperature and the surface of the earth day and night in the desert. If the day the air is heated to 45 degrees, and the land to 60, the night temperature drops to 10-12 degrees. With such a differential daily temperatures relative humidity is very low during the day, by night dramatically increased. Excess moisture falls as droplets of dew, and deposited on the body of the cactus, and soil. It's just taken for the cause of device for trapping moisture, which nature has provided cacti. Above ground water are beginning to pick cactus thorns and hair, and moisture from the surface of the soil falls into another trap. Such a network Hunting for water from the earth's surface and are just the surface roots. That is, they allow cactus, long months during the dry period of the year do «without watering», without rain. These lateral roots are shallow, only a few centimeters from the surface of the earth. But the breadth leave them for four or five meters.

One well-known collector and researcher cacti Bakeberg Kurt decided to bring from America to Europe, in the botanical garden, a large copy of a beautiful new Thelocactus. As usual, poured a little land around the plant the size of a small watermelon, he wrapped his soft cloth and began to pull out of the parent soil. But there it was! From the first touch to a cactus all the land around a few meters, came in motion, will follow the stones and gravel, sand and a handful of limestone. The very nature of how a man protested against the abduction of her barbed creation! Only then can the researcher understand how powerful and extensive surface roots of the cactus. Only then it became clear, as acts that «plumbing», where cacti even at the driest month, receiving enough moisture.

Surface roots - an indispensable tool for cacti in their constant struggle for every drop of water. But what is interesting. The roots that collect moisture, they can not collect it, can not provide a desired amount of liquid to sustain life. They do not have such protective devices for the retention of water, such as wax or a strong attack from above the skin surface of the cactus. The roots of these, as botanists say, do not have the Succulent features. This means that they need help in those days when humidity is very low, because otherwise peresohnut delicate root hairs - the main water pumps. In these difficult days for the roots to help them, oddly enough, is elevated portion of the cactus, stocked in the water itself. At such times the current water receptacles plants are usually designed from the bottom up, changes direction, and the water comes from the stem down to the roots. A normal-leaved plants that did not happen.

you know that the roots of the plant always grow downward. This phenomenon is called geotropizm. Of course, this Act and subject to the roots of cacti. But here again there is an exception. Some of the roots growing down suddenly, as if thinking of the way, turn up and thus fill up the side of the root system. These intermediate to its location on the roots and work as anchor, and as a moisture trap.

Let's get acquainted another interesting feature of the roots of cacti. A resident of Argentina Tefrokaktus subterraneus. Mexican Gimnokaktus subterraneus, prickly pear subterranea also come from North America and that the total of these various and appearance, and habitat for cacti? Species name of those plants is translated from Latin means . Also translated and specific name of the Chilean cactus Kopiapoa hipogea, it is only in Greek. What, indeed, these cacti are living under the ground? Yes, you can say so. Only in the rainy season over the surface of the earth itself is showing the body of plants, sticks out a little bit of rock and sand. At the same time and the flowers appear, giving securely hidden in a small body of land of cactus I Tefrokaktusa underground brownish flowers - white with red, the underground Parodies - bright red. Rodney these plants for special shrinking roots - thick and long, similar to the radish and carrots. This cortical layer of many special contracting fibers, which in times of drought forced the body of the plant under the ground. And since the period of drought in the habitats of these unusual cacti lasts most of the year, and they live almost all the time under the ground. The top layer of soil at home cacti - it is almost entirely sand and gravel. Through a loose barrier declining root easily jam through the body of a small semi plants.

Many cacti, although they do not bear the names of "underground", is also very much curl in the drought, how would "grow back", but not so clearly go under ground. A Mammillaria dowsonii retractors and roots have no need - it is growing almost under ground, in the loose surface layer. Even the top young papilliferous she always located flush with the surface soil. So the plant has adapted to conditions of drought: you can absorb dew entire body.

Well, finally, another variety is already a kind of root system of cacti. Neochileniya napina and Mammillaria napina (like turnips), Pterocactus tuberosus (from tubers), Epithelantha pachirhisa (thick root) - already have species names tell us that the roots of the cacti are thickening that can store water. Such turnip roots are found not only among the four cacti. They are equipped with many Coriphanta, Neochilenia, Mammillaria, Lophophora, and other residents of North or South America. Living in Mexico's Sonora desert Peniocereus has the thin and semi pedicels that issued it can be mistaken for bushes with branches matted. But under the ground, he holds store water thickening of tuberous roots, which weigh several kilograms.

Carrot roots are well developed from the cacti and the indoor environment. If you transplant you suddenly find that the main root of the core has become a thick, white or light yellow and formed a strong "turnip", can be satisfied. So, cactus became an adult, it means taking care of him was correct, and he will soon blossom. Cacti grown from seed, for a long time, do not acquire carrot root, it is only with age, the fourth or fifth year of life, and sometimes later. Interestingly, the carrot root, and cacti can be grown from cuttings. In my own collection for the third year has a healthy carrot root Rare Mammillaria theresii, and a thin Peniocereus greggii, grown from cuttings, for five years has grown in the ground a tuber that even the land of pot replaced.

Plants with carrots and thickening tuberous roots need special care and attention. When you transplant these roots should be clean soft brush, carefully inspect, verify that there are no suspicious stains or cavities. After that cactus can be put in a high pot, or cube, a good bottom drainage, thin broom roots moisture traps loose fill dirt mixture, making sure to add the clay ground, and the carrots nodosity fill a thick layer of large sand or gravel. Then carrots roots remain healthy and not rotting.

You know now about the many features of the roots of cacti. But just the unknown always beckons to me. Transplant cacti spring or late fall, watch for their root system when they see unusual, remember, write down. What an interesting and necessary would be to study the long-developed root system at any of your cacti, especially when each year in the roots of transplants to photograph next to the scale.

Knowing the biology of the underground parts of cacti, you'll be able to properly care for the plant, to monitor the health of roots when transplanting. Yes, the cactus must be compliance with the rules of hygiene. Before the transplants, four or five days cactus should not be water. Be careful removing it from the ground, first check the root neck, and then move to the roots of an excess of dry land. You can clean the brush roots. But if you see that roots strong and healthy, it is better to brush them once again not to alarm, leave the root hairs adhering to the piece of land. The dry, sick or rotten roots should be cut a razor to clean the place and the powder crushed coal. If the roots littered with white, like a piece of cotton - colonies chervetsa or down tli affected places, a good stiff brush clearing previously, process chemicals or alcohol, you can rinse them thoroughly with warm water. Then dry the roots of the cactus in a vertical state of not less than five days, then put in a new light earthen mixture.

Observing of the cacti, you can often notice that among healthy shining and fresh green cacti one suddenly does not grow, became grey-green, matte, its prickles have grown dull. Council here the unique: first of all take out it from the earth and examine roots. Can be assured that you will find either a root plant louse, or a part of roots has decayed. Clear, process roots and make it a hot bath. For this purpose cut out from a cardboard a circle with an aperture in the middle, put there a cactus a root neck outside and on half an hour lower plant roots in hot water (temperature of 50-55 degrees). Water should not be neither is hot, nor is colder. After such steaming dry up roots within a week in a warm place and again plant a cactus in the earth. From many illnesses such thermal processing of root system of a sick cactus serves as a medicine. Remember: healthy roots - a healthy cactus!


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