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Origin and Habitat: New Mexico, Hidalgo and Luna counties; Mexico, southward to central Chihuahua.
Altitude: 1600-1800 metres above sea level.
Habitat: It grows in Chihuahuan desert scrub, desert grassland, and oak woodland mostly in crevices on limestone or in rocky soils of broken mountainous terrain where it is sometimes locally abundant.
- Escobaria orcuttii Rose ex Orcutt
Escobaria orcuttii Rose ex Orcutt
Cactography 5, nomen. 1926 (without description); et Boed. Mammill.-Vergl.-Schluss. 17 (1933); cf. Gray Herb. Card Cat., Issue 145.
- Escobaria orcuttii Rose ex Orcutt
- Coryphantha orcuttii (Rose ex Orcutt) Zimmerman
- Coryphantha strobiliformis var. orcuttii (Rose ex Orcutt) L.D.Benson
- Escobaria orcuttii var. koenigii Castetter, P.Pierce & K.H.Schwer.
- Escobaria orcuttii var. macraxina Castetter, P.Pierce & K.H.Schwer.
ENGLISH: Snowball Beehive cactus, Koenig Snowball Cactus, Big Hatchet Snowball Cactus, Orcutt pincushion cactus
Description: Escobaria orcuttii is a small clustering cactus species, with spines obscuring the stem and giving the plant a dull-white or pale brownish appearance. The flowers are rose-coloured.
Habit: It stays usually solitary, but sometimes branches forming small dense clumps.
Stems: Individual stems cylindrical, to 15 cm high and 4-6(-9) cm in diameter.
Tubercles: 4-8(-12) mm long, on mature stems with upper surface bearing a groove.
Spines: Not well differentiated as centrals and radials.
Central spines 9-22, thicker, white with dark purplish or brownish tips, 9-11(-22) mm long, often brittle and breaking readily at the touch.
Radial spines: 30-50, white, slender, spreading and 8-25 mm long.
Flowers: Diurnal, rose-coloured, not opening widely to 1,2(-2) cm in diameter. Perianth segments pale yellowish to pinkish or nearly white, usually with midribs darker, stigmas about 6 long, white to pink.
Blooming season: Blooms in early summer. Flowers open during the afternoon and only stay open for two hours or so.
Fruits: Elongate, 1,5-2 cm long, green to somewhat reddish.
Seeds: About 1 mm long, kidney-shaped, pitted, brown, with hilum lateral.
Phenology: Flowering occurs in spring (April to May in habitat). Fruit are persistent into autumn.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Escobaria orcuttii group
- Escobaria orcuttii Rose ex Orcutt: (var. orcuttii) has 15-18 central spines to 11 mmlong, 30-41 radials, and flowers to 1,2 cm in diameter. Distribution: Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.
- Escobaria orcuttii var. koenigii Castetter, P.Pierce & K.H.Schwer.: has as many as 22 central spines up to 22 mm long, as many as 57 radials, and flowers to 2 cm in diameter. Distribution: Endemic to Luna County, New Mexico.
- Escobaria orcuttii var. macraxina Castetter, P.Pierce & K.H.Schwer.: has a stem diameter to 9 cm in diameter, as many as 22 central spines, and as many as 52 radials up to 25 mm long. Distribution: southeastern Hidalgo County, New Mexico.
Notes: In Flora of North America, Volume 4 (2003), Escobaria orcuttii and the other species in the Escobaria sneedii Complex ( Escobaria albicolumnaria, Escobaria organensis, Escobaria sandbergii, and Escobaria villardii), have been submerged into a single highly variable species, Coryphantha sneedii, without recognition of subspecific taxa. Escobaria orcuttii is larger and less densely clustering than Escobaria sneedii var. sneedii or Escobaria sneedii var. leei.
Escobaria orcuttii is also similar to Escobaria tuberculosa which usually has more richly coloured flowers that open widely, fruits that ripen bright red, and seeds that are smaller and rounder.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Del Weniger “Cacti of the Southwest: Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana” University of Texas Press, 1969
2) Ellen A. Debruin “Surveys and Habitat Analyses of Five Rare Plant Species In the Organ Mountains of New Mexico” In: “Southwestern Rare and Endangered Plants: Proceedings of the Second Conference” DIANE Publishing. 1995
3) Zimmerman, A.D. “Systematics of the genus Coryphantha (Cactaceae).” Dissertation, University of Texas, Austin. 1985
4) Zimmerman, D.A. “A new species of Coryphantha from New Mexico.” in: Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.) 44(3):144. 1972
5) Edward Anderson “The Cactus family” Timber Press, Incorporated, 2001
6) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey "The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass" Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug/2011
7) David R Hunt; Nigel P Taylor; Graham Charles; International Cactaceae Systematics Group. "The New Cactus Lexicon" dh books, 2006
8) Castetter, E.F., P. Pierce and K.H. Schwerin. “A reassessment of the genus Escobaria” in: Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.) 47:60-70. 1975
9) Flora of North America Editorial Committee. “Flora of North America, volume 4” Oxford University Press, New York. 2003.
10) New Mexico Native Plants Protection Advisory Committee. “A handbook of rare and endemic plants of New Mexico.” University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 1984
Cultivation and Propagation: Escobaria orcutti comes from an area of summer rainfall and is supposed to be not the most easiest species in cultivation, as particularly sensible to moisture excesses. It will offset profusely.
Soils: Use a an open and free draining mineral compost with little organic matter (peat, humus) that allows therefore roots to breath (as it is rot prone).
Repotting: Repotting every 2-3 years. Use a small pot with good drainage.
Watering: It likes a winter's rest and should be kept completely dry during the winter months. From early spring onwards the plant will begin to grow and watering should be increased gradually until late spring when the plant should be in full growth. Water regularly during the summer so long as the plant pot is allowed to drain and not sit in a tray of water. During hot weather you may need to water the plants more frequently so long as the plant is actively growing. From late summer watering should be reduced to force the plant to go in to a state of semi dormancy, by autumn you should be back in to the winter watering regime. Keep dry with ample airflow in winter (but for outdoors cultivation it is very resistant to wet conditions, too). In the rest period no high atmospheric humidity!! Care must be taken with watering as they tends to become swollen and untidy in growth habit if given too much water and shade.
Fertilization: Feed with a high potassium fertilizer in summer.
Hardiness: Reputedly resistant to frost if kept on the dry side prior to, and during, cold weather (hardy to -17 C ° C, or less for short periods).
Exposition: The plant tolerates very bright situations, if kept too dark they may become overly lush and greener and could be prone to rotting due to over watering. Strong light encourages flowering and heavy wool and spine production, but is likely to suffer from sun scorch or stunted growth if over exposed to direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day in summer. .
Uses: It is an excellent plant for container growing. It always looks good and stays small. It look fine in a cold greenhouse and frame or outdoor in a rockery.
Pests & diseases: It may be attractive to a variety of insects, but plants in good condition should be nearly pest-free, particularly if they are grown in a mineral potting-mix, with good exposure and ventilation. Nonetheless, there are several pests to watch for:
- Red spiders: Red spiders may be effectively rubbed up by watering the plants from above.
- Mealy bugs: Mealy bugs occasionally develop aerial into the new growth among the wool with disfiguring results, but the worst types develop underground on the roots and are invisible except by their effects.
- Scales: Scales are rarely a problem.
- Rot: This species seldom suffer of cryptogamic diseases. Rot it is only a minor problem with cacti if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much.
Propagation: Direct sow after last frost or usually by offsets (readily available), or occasionally grafted. Seeds (no dormancy requirement) germinate in 7-14 days at 21-27° C in spring, remove gradually the glass cover as soon the plants will be well rooted (ca 1-2 weeks) and keep ventilated, no full sun for young plants! The seedlings should not be disturbed until they are well rooted, after which they can be planted separately in small pots. Cuttings: wait until the offsets that appear at the base of old clustered specimens are 1/3 the size of the parent and then detach and plant.
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