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Origin and Habitat: New Mexico (South-Central U.S.A., Northern America)
Description: Escobaria villardii is a low-growing, widely spreading cactus with stems covered in white spines forming untidy mats or mounds.
Habit: This species stays small and will offset to form clusters of as many as 11 stems. It lack small, clustered sterile stems (a characteristic of the related Escobaria sneedii that occurs and intergrade with Escobaria villardii in the Doña Ana County)
Stems: The individual stems, short cylindrical, 2-4(-6,5) cm Ø and to 6–15 cm long,
Tubercles: Globose to cylindrical, somewhat rounded on top, 6–11 mm long, 3–6 mm Ø, on mature stems with a groove the full length in the upper surface.
Spines: 20–36(-50), slender and bristle like, 6–20 mm long, very variable.
Central spines: 8-10, of which 1-2 longest stouter, thicker, darkly pigmented 12-20 mm long, and spreading, typically ashy white, yellowish or pale brownish and dark at tip, fading to gray, standing out, others 6-8 up to 20 mm long, translucent white.
Radial spines: 20-36, bristle-like, white, some curved 5-12 mm long.
Flowers: 20-35 mm long, 8–25 mm Ø, not opening widely pale yellow, pale pink or pink/white with dark midveins, feathery edged. Stigmas white to pink.
Fruits: 11–21 mm long, cylindrical., greenish to somewhat reddish, occasionally with a few woolly scales.
Seeds: 1 mm Ø, kidney-shaped with hilum lateral, pitted, brown.
Blooming season: Flowers in spring (in habitat in April.)
Notes: note: In Flora of North America, Volume 4 (2003), Escobaria villardii and the other species in the Escobaria sneedii Complex ( Escobaria albicolumnaria, Escobaria organensis, Escobaria sandbergii, and Escobaria orcuttii), 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 villardii 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) 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) Castetter, E.F., P. Pierce and K.H. Schwerin. 1975. "Reassessment of the genus Escobaria." Cactus and Succulent Journal (US) 47(2):60-70.
5) Stovall, Rusty "The Distribution and Range of Escobaria Villardii A Narrow Endemic Cactus of the Sacramento Escarpment." May 1996
6) Flora of North America Editorial Committee. “Flora of North America, volume 4.” Oxford University Press, New York.2003.
7) New Mexico Native Plants Protection Advisory Committee. “A handbook of rare and endemic plants of New Mexico.” University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 1984
8) Sivinksi, R. “Status report for Villard's pincushion cactus (Escobaria villardii).” Submitted to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, Albuquerque.” 1995.
9) Haage Walther “Kakteen von A bis Z” Anaconda 2008.
Cultivation and Propagation: Escobaria villardii 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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