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Cactus of the Astrophytum genus.

Francesco and Stefania, Rome, Italy

Plants of the genus Astrophytum (Fam. Cactacee) are among the ones that I like the best. Likely the most worldwide known is Astrophytum myriostigma (commonly known as the "Bishop Cap" because of its peculiar shape). These plants (5 to 6 species included in the genus, depending on the classification rules you agree with) originate from the northern part of Mexico but, regrettably, I wasn't lucky enough to spot even one in the wild during my visit in the Matehuala desert.

In my collection, I happen to have three plants: two pure strain (Astrophytum myriostigma and Astrophytum ornatum) and a supposed hybrid: [Astrophytum myriostigma] x [asterias].

Their growth needs are easy to follow: Full sun (also a moderate shade will do), they do not stand frost very well (and here in Italy, they should be kept inside from roughly the middle of October into half of April; see below!), and they need a "watering rest" in winter. They will grow up to 60 cm (2 feet) and, possibly, a little more. Although I have no direct experience, I am told that propagation is by seeds that grow remarkably quick, even though a plant will need about six years to bloom and produce nice yellow flowers.

As said before, I have three plants in my collection, and here I present all of them. The blooms pictured are from the supposed hybrid (this meaning that the given plant is at least six years old, provided what is reported above is true!!!)...here we go!

  • Astrophytum myriostigma

NOTE: One smaller plant like this that was kept in full ground this winter succumbed to frost. As a matter of fact, wed had a really cold winter this year in Rome. For the first time in, say, the last twenty years, we even had snow! In the future, Ill refrain from such experiments!!!

  • Astrophytum ornatum

  • [Astrophytum myriostigma] x [asterias]

Lets spend a few words on this supposed hybrid (all in all, it could be true!) This plant was a gift. At any rate, most of the plants sold in Rome and other areas are of uncertain origin (i.e.: no "field number" or alike, that is used among serious collectors to CLEARLY identity where that given plant comes from). Furthermore, Ive been told that among "vegetals", hybridization occurs way more easily in the wild (among cichlids, it is likely to happen almost ONLY in tanks) hence I decided NOT to be too "fussy" and to fully enjoy the plant!

Maybe for this reason Ive been rewarded by the blossom shown hereunder? Forst is shown the plant carrying the flower; then there is, in detail, the flower alone.

Here we go (next pic). I DO hope youll enjoy it as I did

PERSONAL TIP: for those interested in going a bit deeper into "Cactus and Succulents", Id suggest to have a DEEP look to: Desert Tropicals Cacti and Succulents CDROM

 by Philippe Faucon, on sale at www.desert-tropicals.com/ where youll also find a bunch of interesting information on "Dry Gardening" that, regrettably, does NOT pertain hardly at all to Italy, but should fit well, IMVHO at least, to large parts of America.

  Many thanks to Carli De Busk for her editorial help.

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