Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Splits



This is an example of what can happen when a cactus takes up too much water. Cacti are water-hoarding plants. When water is available, the cactus will soak it up. It doesn’t really know when to stop. The reason many cacti have pleats (ribs) is so they can expand and contract depending on the amount of water available. When it has taken up a lot of water, the pleats are wider apart. As the cactus uses up its stored water over time, the pleats will get closer together and eventually the cactus looks shrunken. During the winter when watering is cut back, a cactus can lose up to 50 percent of its volume. Barrel and Saguaro Cactus seem to be prone to skin splitting in landscapes where water is readily available.

The cactus in the photo is an Echinopsis hybrid offset that I potted in early spring. Since I use a moisture meter, I can’t explain why this particular offshoot spit its skin. It is near the edge of the pot on the side where I water, so it might have received more water than the others in the pot. Cacti repair themselves by forming a callus, or scar, and as long as it doesn’t get an infection, the damage is only cosmetic. As the cactus matures, the split area will be less and less noticeable.

5 comments:

Claude said...

We appear to get most of our rain every spring, so I'm used to dealing with this... If you plant for the quick drainage you need in the winter and spring, you end up with absolutely no water retention in the summer when you need it... watering can be very tricky here. But the damage does callous over fairly quickly.

beckie said...

Once again, you have given information that I had no idea about. If only humans had such capabilities. Unfornately, I am like the Echinopsis-only with out the split!

jocelyn said...

Fascinating! And I love that the ribs are called "pleats"...

Julie said...

Why does the watering have to be so darn tricky!

kate smudges said...

So that's why one of my cactus had this look to it. Now I know. Thank you.