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Accepted Scientific Name: Ferocactus glaucescens (DC.) Britton & Rose
Cactaceae (Britton & Rose) 3: 137. 1922 Britton & Rose
Origin and Habitat: Garden origin (Nursery produced). The wild species occurs over a considerable range from Guanajuato to Querétaro, San Luis Potosí and Hidalgo (Meztitlan, Toliman and Jacala) in Eastern central Mexico.
Ferocactus glaucescens (DC.) Britton & Rose
Cactaceae (Britton & Rose) 3: 137. 1922
- Ferocactus glaucescens (DC.) Britton & Rose
- Bisnaga glaucescens DC., Orcutt
- Echinocactus glaucescens DC.
- Echinocactus pfeifferi Zucc. in Pfeiff.
- Ferocactus pfeifferi (Zucc. & sine ref.) Backeb.
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. cristata
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. nudus cristatus monstuosus clone A
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. nudus cristatus monstuosus clone B
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. nudus cristatus
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. nudus
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. variegatum hort.
Description: The classical Ferocactus glaucescens is a solitary or basally suckering, barrel cactus. Multiple heads are produced as the plant ages and can form a very large mound. The variegated form (Ferocactus glaucescens f. variegatus) has sectors, patches or stripes with distinct shades of yellow. A very few variegated plants sprout unpredictably time by time among normal green seedling and are very rare. Plants with variegated stems are often attractive and highly prized.
Stems: Glaucous grey and yellow, up to 55 cm in height, 50 cm in diameter. Globular depressed at the apex, it becomes shortly columnar as it ages. But often variegated plants stay much smaller.
Ribs: 11 to 15.
Radial spines: 6 or 7, 2.5-4 cm long, straight, light yellow.
Central spines: 0 or 1, very similar to the radials.
Flowers: Lemon yellow, funnel-shaped, 3-4 cm in diameter. The tepals are oblong, lanceolate, silky, shining; the margins are finely fringed. Stamen, style and stigma are yellow. Stigma lobes: 12-15.
Blooming season: Late spring and summer. The flowers last a very long time. The plants start flowering when about 13 cm in diameter.
Fruits: White, 2 cm long with the remnants of the flowers attached.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Ferocactus pottsii complex
(This Taxon belong to a group of six closely allied species. The group is: Ferocactus alamosanus, Ferocactus schwarzii, Ferocactus reppenhagenii, Ferocactus glaucescens, & Ferocactus echidne)
- Ferocactus alamosanus Britton & Rose: has usually about 20 acute ribs, heavy spination, and only grows to 25 cm high.
- Ferocactus glaucescens (DC.) Britton & Rose: glaucous (blue grey-green) with nice light golden spines, as the plant ages can form a very large mound.
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. cristata: Crested form.
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. nudus cristatus monstuosus clone A: crested form of Ferocactus glaucescens cv. Split Rock with irregular fan-shaped stem, that looks like an old weathered rock.
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. nudus cristatus monstuosus clone B: crested form with irregular fan-shaped stem and areoles often merging to form horizontal bands.
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. nudus cristatus: Crested form.
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. nudus: spines are absent or very few (1 to 3 not distinguishable from radials to centrals) irregularly scattered on the areoles of young individuals.
- Ferocactus glaucescens f. variegatum hort.: has sectors, patches or stripes with distinct shades of yellow.
- Ferocactus glaucescens cv. Split Rock hort.: is monstrous barrel cactus that looks like an old weathered rock. The epidermis starts soon to split open assuming the appearance of a rock surface.
- Ferocactus hybrid alamosanus x schwarzii hort.
- Ferocactus hybrid alamosanus x schwarzii f. variegatus hort.
- Ferocactus reppenhagenii G.Unger: has 12-18 rounder ribs and connecting areoles and will grow up to about 70-100 cm.
- Ferocactus reppenhagenii f. cristatus hort.: crested form.
- Ferocactus schwarzii G.E.Linds.: Younger plants have usually 4 to 5 (or more) gold coloured spines. As they age the number of spines decreases and old plant are nearly spineless or have only 1 or 2 spines.
Notes: Variegation, albinism & schizochromism.
Variegation: A variegated plant has sectors, patches or stripes with two or more different colours, even distinct shades of green. Plants with variegated stems or leaves are often attractive and highly prized. In most species the stems or leaves are normally green, and variegated epidermis is an uncommon mutation, termed a chimera. A chimeral variegation is due to losing the ability to produce chlorophyll in some of the plant’s tissue, so that this tissue is no longer green. Tissues lacking chlorophyll are usually white or pale yellow coloured (due to carotenoid pigments) or red (due to betalain or anthocyanin pigments) contrasting with the normal green tissue. There are several forms of variegation, depending on the tissues that have been affected. The variegation in some forms is unstable. The extent and nature of the variegation can vary, and sometimes the plant will return to the green form. In others it is stable and does not change under normal conditions. Because the variegation is due to the presence of two kinds of plant tissue, propagating the plant must be by a vegetative method of propagation that preserves both types of tissue in relation to each other.
Albinism: Every once in a while a plant exhibits albinism (completely lacking chlorophyll pigment). This means that its tissue is unable to carry out photosynthesis. The result is a completely cream-white plant. This plant will be weaker than a green plant, and albinism is generally a fatal trait (it can't produce its own food and it's not getting it from anything else). Without chlorophyll, the albino plant has no way to manufacture the food needed for survival and growth to maturity. This implies that these plants cannot survive on their own roots and necessitate being grafted on a normal green plant that provides food. Some of these albino plants are indeed very popular, and sought after by collectors.
Schizochromism: The yellow or red appearance of some plants is more precisely caused by another aberration called "schizochromism". Here, though, the specific green pigment (chlorophyll) is missing: every other pigment is present at normal levels. The dominant green colouration is lost, but the plant will still more than likely have normal other pigments that give the yellow overall appearance of stems and the red colouration of spines.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Edward Anderson “The Cactus family” Timber Press, Incorporated, 2001
2) 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
3) David R Hunt; Nigel P Taylor; Graham Charles; International Cactaceae Systematics Group. "The New Cactus Lexicon" dh books, 2006
4) N. L. Britton, J. N. Rose “The Cactaceae. Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family.” Volume 4, The Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington 1923,
Cultivation and Propagation: Variegated cacti are regarded as choice and difficult in cultivation, but despite that many of them are relatively easy to grow. But be aware that they cannot tolerate prolonged exposure to direct sun light (especially during the hottest summer days), so grow them in half-shade or under filtered sun. They are sometime seen as grafted plants, but some of this colourful plants (those with some chlorophyll) are able to grow on their own roots and are priced by collectors.
Soil: Use mineral well-permeable substratum with little organic matter (peat, humus).
Watering: Water sparingly from March till October, and keep perfectly dry in winter, at temperatures from 5 to 15 degrees centigrade. (In general these plants are more tender and cannot endure freezing temperatures). In the rest period no high atmospheric humidity!!
Propagation: By seeds, grafting or cutting. Because the variegation is due to the presence of two kinds of plant tissue, propagating the plant must be by a vegetative method of propagation that preserves both types of tissue in relation to each other. A most common way way to cultivate this partially de-coloured cultivars is to graft them onto another cactus which has chlorophyll and which will provide sugar to the mutant scion. The chlorophyll containing bottom part of the graft, called the stock, can be any number of different columnar cactus species.
Remarks: Seeds from variegated parents often give raise to some variegated seedlings too.
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