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Origin and Habitat: Bahia and Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Altitude: 200-1100 metres above sea level.
Habitat: It grows in crevices in places dominated by gneiss/granite inselbergs and on rocky outcrop among low xerophytic vegetation.
Melocactus ernestii Vaupel
Monatsschr. Kakteenk. 30: 8. 1920
- Melocactus ernestii Vaupel
- Melocactus oreas subs. ernestii (Vaupel) P.J.Braun
- Melocactus azulensis Buining & Bredero
- Melocactus oreas f. azulensis (Buining et al.) P.J.Braun
- Melocactus deinacanthus Buining & Bredero
- Melocactus diamantinus hort.
- Melocactus ernestii var. multiceps hort.
- Melocactus erythracanthus Buining & Bredero
- Melocactus oreas f. erythracanthus (Buining & Bredero) P.J.Braun
- Melocactus interpositus F.Ritter
- Melocactus longispinus Buining & Bredero
- Melocactus oreas var. longispinus (Buining & Bredero) P.J.Braun
- Melocactus nitidus F.Ritter
Melocactus ernestii subs. longicarpus (Buining & Bredero) N.P.Taylor
Bradleya 9: 26 (1991)
- Melocactus ernestii subs. longicarpus (Buining & Bredero) N.P.Taylor
- Melocactus deinacanthus subs. longicarpus (Buining & Bredero) P.J.Braun
- Melocactus longicarpus Buining & Bredero
- Melocactus florschuetzianus Buining & Bredero
- Melocactus deinacanthus subs. florschuetzianus (Buining & Bredero) P.J.Braun
- Melocactus deinacanthus var. florschuetzianus (Buining & Bredero) P.J.Braun
- Melocactus montanus F.Ritter
- Melocactus mulequensis Buining & Bredero
- Melocactus deinacanthus f. mulequensis (Buining & Bredero) P.J.Braun
- Melocactus neomontanus Van Heek & Hovens
Description: Melocactus ernestii is one of the larger Melocactus and one of the longest spined species of the genus, it is also a very variable species in size colour and form of the spines. Mature plants are easily recognizable by their cephalium, that have a covering of wool and bristles, while the immature plant looks like a smallish barrel cactus, and there is nothing in its appearance that would suggest a Melocactus. Plants of this genus attract more attention in collections than those of any other cactus genera.
Habit: It is a solitary perennial stem succulent with determinate growth in which the axis does not continue to elongate indefinitely being limited by the development of the flower bearing cephalium.
Stem: Spherical to depressed conical to ellipsoid to short cylindrical, distinctly mucilaginous, light yellowish green to dark green, (8-)9-25(-45) cm high, (7-)12-22(-25) cm in diameter. When the plant has reached a certain age it shows at the growing tip a cephalium (the structure, where the flower buds will form.
Ribs: 9-13, more or less rounded but sometimes sharp-edged.
Cephalium: Cap-like, globose to shortly cylindrical, (hence the common name of "Turk's Cap") to 2-18 cm high and 4-8 cm in diameter, covered by tightly peaked areoles that bear wool and pinkish-red bristles, the tips sometimes covered with white wool.
Areoles:Somewhat rounded to obtuse with, 1-2 cm apart,m a little white wool nearer the centre of a juvenile plants.
Spines: with red and yellow bands or reddish or brownish, becoming grey or black with age on old mature specimens.
Radial spines: 6-13, slender, straight or curved outward, 4-15 cm long. The lowermost the longer.
Central spine: 3-8, lowermost curved or straight, 3,2-9 cm long
Flowers: Small, light to dark pinkish magenta, 17-30 mm long, 7-18 mm in diameter, similar in form to Mammillaria flowers. They do not emerge fully from the cephalium.
Blooming season: The flowers arise annually in mid summer from the cephalium in a ring. The flowers are diurnal and opens for a few hours at about lunchtime. It starts flowering in 6-10 years.
Fruits: Clavate berry, often somewhat flattened, especially near the tip, variable in size 1,5 to 4,5 cm long, 6-10 mm in diameter, deep pink to crimson-red. Ripened fruits are present apically on the cephalium.
Seeds: 1-1,3 mm long, 0,8-1 mm broad slightly tuberculatate.
Chromosome number: 2n = 44
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Melocactus ernestii group
- Melocactus diamantinus hort.: has extremely beautiful and very long red spines and large white woolly areoles. Distribution: Chapado do Diamantina (Mercedes de Diamantina).
- Melocactus ernestii Vaupel: has noticeably mucilaginous stems with 10 to 13 ribs. Distribution: Bahia and northeastern Minas Gerais.
- Melocactus ernestii subs. longicarpus (Buining & Bredero) N.P.Taylor: has not mucilaginous stems, with 9 to 11 ribs. Distributiom: southern Bahia and northern Minas Gerais.
- Melocactus ernestii var. multiceps hort.: has stout brown spines, with both of normal vegetative growth and mutant plants with cristate and multiple branched cephalia. Distribution: West of Itaobim, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
- Melocactus erythracanthus Buining & Bredero: has green, not glaucous body and very long, reddish spines up to 15 cm in length. Distribution: Morro do Chapeu, Bahia.
- Melocactus florschuetzianus Buining & Bredero: has yellowish green stem with long thin yellowish-brown spines. Distribution: Barrocao, Francisco Sa, Minas Gerais.
- Melocactus neomontanus Van Heek & Hovens
Bibliography: major references and further lectures
1) Willy Cullmann “Kakteen: Einführung in die Kakteenkunde und Anleitung zu erfolgreicher Kakteenkultur” E. Ulmer, 1972
2) Hirao, H. “Colour Encyclopedia of Cacti” Seibundo Shinkocha Pub. Co. 1979
3) Stuart Max Walters “The European garden flora. 3.[Angiospermae], Dicotyledons. [Casuarinaceae to Aristolochiaceae]” Cambridge University Press, 1989
4) Edward Anderson “The Cactus family” Timber Press, Incorporated, 2001
5) David R Hunt; Nigel P Taylor; Graham Charles; International Cactaceae Systematics Group. "The New Cactus Lexicon" dh books, 2006
6) John Borg “Cacti: a gardener's handbook for their identification and cultivation” Blandford Press, 1959
7) Curt Backeberg: “Die Cactaceae: Handbuch der Kakteenkunde.” Vol. IV, Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart New York 1984
8) Sara Oldfield “Cactus and Succulent Plants: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan” IUCN, 01/Jan/1997
9) Edgar Lamb, Brian Lamb ”The Illustrated Reference on Cacti & Other Succulents,” Volume 5 Blandford Press, 1978
10) Urs Eggli, Leonard E. Newton "Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names" Birkhäuser 2004
11) Juliana P. Castro, Luiz G.R. Souza, Lânia F. Alves, Ana E.B. Silva, Marcelo Guerra & Leonardo P. Felix. 1073 Marhold (ed.) “IAPT/IOPB chromosome data 15” TAXON 62 (5) • October 2013: 1073–1083
Cultivation and Propagation: These tropical cacti are not the easiest things to grow and aren’t plants for beginners.
Growth rate: It is a relatively rapidly growing given the best conditions.
Soils: It likes very porous standard cactus mix soil.
Repotting: The root system is weak and generally resents being repotted and can take a long time to re-establish. Use pot with good drainage.
Light: They prefer very bright light, not as much as the most arid growing cacti, but plenty nonetheless. Tends to bronze in strong light, which encourages flowering and heavy spine production.
Watering: Melocacti grow from April to October and cannot endure long stretches of total dryness, and also too much water will rot them, as their weak root systems tends to be inefficient at sucking up water from wet soil. Nonetheless, again as a result of their tropical origins, they need a fair amount of water, but allow the soil to dry quite a bit before watering again.
Fertilization: Do not feed in winter.
Hardiness: Melocactus rest from October to April but can’t stand cold, or even fairly cool temperatures, so is indispensable to keep them above 8-12°C at all times, severe damage or death occurring at temperatures that the great majority of cacti wouldn’t mind in the least and prefer more frequent water in winter than other cacti, say once a month. (but hardy to 4 C ° C for short periods). However warmth throughout the year will increase the grower's success (minimum 12° to 20° C during rest season).
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 misting the vulnerable plants every day
- Mealy bugs: Mealy bugs occasionally they 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: 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: Exclusively by Seeds. Sow in February-march in a light, sandy, porous soil. Cover germinating tray with glass to prevent seed from drying out. Germination is most successful at a temperature of 18 to 22° C.
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