Odd Pods Cactus Garden
Strains and Varieties of Cacti
The following strains of cacti represent the wide appeal and usage of the plant. All of these species may be found in your seed vial – watch their distinct characteristics emerge as they grow in your planting pod!
Carnegiea Gigantea (Giant Saguaro)
Originally called Cereus Giganteus, this variety was renamed in 1908 to honor industrialist Andrew Carnegie. It is the familiar cacti shown in western films, and is the State flower of Arizona. These cacti originated in Arizona where over 78,000 acres were set up exclusively for its growth at the Saguaro National Monument. One of the largest and most slow-growing cactus, it can reach heights over 60 feet, live for more than two centuries, and weigh up to 20,000 pounds. These cacti provide a habitat for many desert creatures including the white-winged dove, the Gila woodpecker, the cactus wren, and the elf owl. The plant has red fruit, which is edible, and was used by the Papago as a dietary staple. Natives also ground the seeds of this plant to make flour. The plant branches, but only after it is 15 to 30 years old and over seven feet tall. It generally does not flower until it is over 30 years old. Since this plant blooms at night, the long-nosed bat is its primary pollinator.
Cereus Peruvianus (Hedge Cactus)
The origin of this plant is uncertain, but speculated to be in Brazil or Argentina. It is one of the oldest known cacti. This cactus is blue-green, and columnar with irregular ribbing. This cactus grows up to 50 feet tall. It will grow straight until it reaches a height of 3 feet, at which point it begins to produce offshoots at the top of the stem. Young plants have 4-5 ribs, and adults have 5-9. Some variations of this cactus are known as the curiosity plant.
Echinocactus Grusonii (Golden Barrel Cactus)
The plant originated in central Mexico. Its name comes from the Greek word “echinos,” which means porcupine, because of the dense coat of gold-yellow spines that cover its green body. It is spherical when young and becomes elongated with age. This cactus flowers after it reaches 15 inches in diameter, a process that can take over 20 years. It ultimately will reach a height of four feet and a width of 3 feet. Native Americans used the hollowed out barrels of this cacti for cooking devices. The strength of the spines prevented the body from caving in as they were used to cook on hot rocks. Although commercial stock of this plant is available, these cacti are on the verge of extinction in the wild.
Echinocereus Engelmannii (Strawberry Cactus)
Originally, this cactus is from New Mexico and Texas. The name is derived from the Greek word “echinos,” which means prickly, and the Latin word “cereus,” meaning wax candle. Cacti generally have a waxier texture to help them reduce water loss. This is a relatively short cactus, not reaching heights of more than twelve inches. However, it forms a clump and spreads into a large cluster. The red fruit is edible and jam is made out of it in southern Texas and tastes like strawberries. The fruit is about the size of a strawberry and known in Mexico as a pitaya.
Echinocereus Fasciculata (Robust Hedgehog)
These cacti are found in Southern Arizona and southern New Mexico, at elevations of 5,000 feet. This cactus has green stems and is cylindrical in shape. It can reach a height of up to 18 inches and a diameter of 3 inches. It naturally forms clumps of 3-20 plants. Its spines vary in length, contributing to its shaggy look. Its most notable feature is its magenta to reddish-purple flowers, which are large and can conceal the plant itself.
Ferocactus Acanthodes (Compass Cactus)
These cacti originated in the deserts of California, southern Nevada, and southwestern Arizona. Translated, the name means “savagely spined cactus.” It is called a compass cactus because it tends to lean to the south. Although this plant is very globular when young, it becomes cylindrical with age. Spines typically are white, pink, or red and are striking against the green body of the cactus.
Ferocactus Latispinus (Crow’s Claw)
These cacti are found in central Mexico at elevations of approximately 6,500 feet. They are known for having for unique central spines. Three spines point upward and one spine points downward. With age, the downward facing red spines become broad, up to 1/3 of an inch, and hooked and lay flat against the ball shaped body, thus the name. Latispinus is translated to “wide-spined.” A mature plant only grows to about 16" tall by 16" across. The plant body secretes a sugary solution in the spring and summer, thought to attract pollinating ants. There are 8-14 ribs on a young plant, and 21 or more on an adult specimen.
Ferocactus Wislizeni (Fishhook Barrel Cactus)
It has distinctively patterned red or rust colored and white spines on its light green body. All the hooks on the spines of the cactus point downward. There is a huge distribution of these plants across, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Mexico. The generic name of the plant comes from the Latin word “ferus,” which means wild or fierce to describe its prickles. The stem is spherical at first, but becomes columnar with age, reaching a height of over six feet. This cactus is used to make sweets. The sweet and sour flesh of the cactus is candied in a sugar solution. For this reason, it has been known as the Candy Barrel Cactus, as many of these plants have been used and destroyed to make candy.
Gymnocalycium Mix (Chin Cactus, Spider Cactus)
The cacti originate exclusively in South America, with most varieties from Argentina. There are over 80 varieties in this species. These cacti typically need less light than many other cacti. They have been called the perfect cacti for windowsills and limited spaces. They are small and compact. They will bloom at an early age and bloom often. Flowers are white and pink, sometimes red.
Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii (Ruby Ball Cactus)
Originating in the Chaco Boreal in Paraguay, this plant’s most unique characteristic is its color. The body of the cactus is grayish-green with red highlights. When the plant is exposed to gamma rays it loses its chlorophyll and becomes bright red. The plant is considered to be a miniature cactus. It only grows to be one inch high and has a two inch diameter. It was originally discovered growing under bushes where it was only exposed to direct sunlight a few months out of the year.
This cactus originated in Argentina. Its total north-south distribution is only 600 miles. In addition, the plant tends to grow at higher elevations, 3,300 to 9,800 feet. It has a silver-olive green body with black, white, and red-brown spines. The range of colors in the spines of this plant make it unusual. Although a globular plant, it begins to flatten slightly with age. These cacti have been grown in collections for nearly two centuries. The funnel-shaped flowers can be an inch and a half in diameter, and are white with pink edges.
Mammillaria Mix (Pincushion Cactus)
This is one of the largest genus in the Cactus, or Cactaceae family, with over 200 species. These plants are found in central and northern Mexico, as well as the south-western USA. They range from one to twelve inches tall and up to eight inches in diameter. They are divided into two groups. The pincushion varieties have straight spines and the fishhook varieties have curved spines. They are small, free blooming cacti that are easy to raise and to take care of. One of the best blooming cacti, it is an excellent choice for beginners. The curved spines of some varieties were used as fishhooks for centuries. The chili shaped fruits are called “chillitos” in the Southwest and have a sharp strawberry taste.
Mammillaria Bocasana (Snowball Cactus)
This variety of Mammillaria originated in the state of San Luis Potosi in north-central Mexico. The name refers to where it was actually discovered, the Sierra de Bocas. The stem of the cactus is a bluish-green, but is concealed by the thick, white hair-like spines. The plant grows naturally in a sphere shape and forms large clusters of them rather quickly. This cactus blooms easily and profusely from spring until fall.
Mammillaria Zeilmanniana (Rose Pincushion)
This plant originated in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. The most valued trait of this plant is in its profuse spring blooming. The carmine-pink flowers will appear on the plant when it is only ¼ of an inch wide. The body of the cactus is purplish-black and it forms a mound when still relatively young. This plant will eventually spread up to two feet, but will not exceed six inches in height in the wild.
Notocactus Brasilensis (Star Cactus)
This plant originated in Southern Brazil, specifically Rio Grande do Sul. The name comes from the Greek word “notos,” meaning south. All 25 species of this group come from South America. The body of the cactus is somewhat flattened and dark green and has eight to ten ribs.
Oreocereus Trolli (Old Man of the Andes)
This plant originated in the Andes in Argentina, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. The name is from the Greek word “oros,” which means mountain – its exclusive habitat. It grows at elevations ranging from 11,480-13,000 feet. The cactus is wrapped in long white, hairlike spines, which thicken in increased light and can reach lengths of almost three inches. These unique spines protect the cactus from the hot sun and mountain cold. The thick low-growing species with dense hair has strong red central spines. In fact, the fine, soft, hairy spines of the cactus are gathered and used like down to stuff pillows and bedding.
These cacti originated in northern South America. They frequently grow in high altitudes in the mountains. They are used to build houses and for firewood in treeless regions of Argentina. It is an upright Brazilian species, with short yellow spines mostly obscured by dense white hair. As these unusual cacti mature, they develop a “pseudocephalium,” which are a lot of wooly spines growing at the top of the cactus.