Saturday, September 22, 2007

Spineless--Perfect For The Timid

Astrophytum asterias hybrid

Anyone who has ever seen a sea urchin will understand why Astrophytum asterias is commonly called the Sea Urchin Cactus. If it wasn’t green, it could easily be mistaken for the echinoid; however, I understand that sometimes sea urchins have a greenish cast! It is also called Star Cactus for some reason.

The natural habitat of the A. asterias is the Chihuahuan desert along the border between Texas and Mexico. Considered an endangered plant, most of the A. asterias found in nurseries are from cultivated seed, which germinates quickly and easily.

The round body of the cactus is divided into eight sections that are somewhat triangular. The edge of each triangle has dots of short white hairs and the body is covered with white flecks. It has no spines, which makes it one of the most popular cactus species for those who don’t want to chance stabbings.

Many collectors specialize in producing hybrids. The cactus in the photo came from a local collector who loves to develop hybrids with various markings, number of ribs, and other characteristics. He then displays them for schoolchildren. His explanatory storyboard with the cacti en masse consistently wins ribbons at cactus shows.

I will soon stop watering this specimen and let it stay dry until spring. It does not require a lot of water, even in the hot months of summer, and it will easily rot if given too much. This cactus is solitary (does not produce offshoots) and stays small, usually under six inches in diameter and two inches tall. It can take sun, and will bloom better in a sunny location. The flowers are yellow with red throats, just like the A. capricorne I wrote about yesterday.


Julie said...

You sure have the most amazing collection! What a wonderful yard...I can't imagine waking up every day to something so glorious!
God bless,

kate said...

That is such a cool-looking cactus. My dog would like this much better than some that I have. He's learned to take a long detour around them.

I am in awe of your cacti collection as well as your knowledge. It's wonderful that you share it with us. Even though I may forget the names, I can always check back here ... I like the fact a local collector shares his collection with schoolchildren. That is a wonderful thing to do.