Wednesday, July 4, 2012

An All American treasure for the 4th of July...woo hooo!


Truth in advertising: the picture was taken a few weeks ago. I find it hard to believe I haven't blogged about this little morsel yet: Escobaria sneedii var. leei (or just plain Escobaria leei for some of us) rates off the charts on the cuteness scale (a scientific measurement of plant adorability invented by Pat Hayward several decades ago). This plant is unique and notable for a whole suite of reasons:

            1) It is one of the easiest cacti to grow
            2) It is hardy almost anywhere (provided it has drainage, of course, and lots of sun): I know it is being grown all over southern Canada, the Northeastern and midwestern USA and all across this great country of ours (it is Fourth of July after all today)...not to mention Europe.
            3) It propagates like a schmoo (if you do not know what a schmoo is I feel sorry for you).
            4) It is listed as Threatened on the Federal Endangered list (only a few thousand individuals are known in its limited range inside Carlsbad Caverns National Park)...I am sure more plants of this are growing in Denver area gardens nowadays than in all the wild! And who knows how many in gardens around the world...a good example of why cultivating a plant probably aids in its conservation: no need to ever recollect this when it is so widely known and grown, and people now have a living reminder of how important preserving a wild plant must be.
            5) Yes, it has spines, but they are of the wimpiest kind: you could easily toss this back and forth and not hurt yourself nor your fellow tosser. A rather gruesome image, actually (do please propagate it when you are done tossing).


This is a clump at Denver Botanic Gardens last year: this was propagated from a piece of a plant that had been despoiled by a visitor (one of the very few plants ever to have been so vandalized): the central portion of a large clump had been pulled up, but the surrounding pieces remained: I decided to propagate these and put them all over the garden--this was perhaps fifteen, maybe 20 years ago. And they have gone on to spread and cluster....Interestingly enough, this was also one of the very few plants ever stolen at the Gardens on Kendrick Lake. Hey nurserymen friends: if people are stealing these little hummers, maybe that means you should propagate and sell them?

High Country Gardens sells this mail order (it's amazing more nurseries don't), and in the Denver area you can always find a large assortment of this at Timberline Gardens--Kelly Grummons has actually grown this from seed and selected an especially tiny form which he really needs to name--it is distinctive, and if possible, even cuter!

There are a few cacti that are even smaller in Mexico and South America. There are cacti with far more spectacular flowers. But I doubt that there are any that have so many stellar attributes at one time....I really think this is a cactus that anyone and everyone in America should know and grow. (P.S. it thrives on a windowsill--you don't even have to grow it in a succulent trough. But shouldn't everyone have a few troughs full of hardy succulents?)...

I have proposed this several times to the Plant Select committee, and I am always rebuffed ("too small", "too weird", "too esoteric", "too different"). I think they are dead wrong, don't you?

14 comments:

  1. Panayoti I enjoyed this very much

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  2. Nice post, and totally agreed! This is a great little plant. "Too weird"? What? C'mon!

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  3. Thanks, I will look for that little gem for my collection.

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  4. I've been growing this in my garden in Pittsburgh, PA for over 15 years. I love it!

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  5. I'm delighted to know so many people share my enthusiasm for this little morsel! Big isn't always better! And good to know it has that kind of longevity in the east, Paul. I trust it is in a trough?

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    1. A small raised bed that is mostly gravel. The plant is only about 6" wide after all these years, but it still looks good and always blooms.

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    2. 6" wide is very respectable for E. leei: in Pittsburgh no less! Will it be on tour for the NARGS meeting this fall?

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  6. Stealing plants ... It must be someone new to gardening. Anyone who has been around for a while would either

    1. Know where to purchase it or
    2. Have so much on their plate that taking on the responsibility for another plant would only be accepted with due contemplation

    James

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    1. I agree that novice gardeners are more apt to steal: the more you garden, the more clever ways you have to persuade people to share divisions, cuttings, seed: few gardeners will say no to a well worded request: "if you don't give me a piece of that plant I will burn your house down, and possibly kill you!"...

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  7. I have a long want list (infinite?) of readily obtainable and inexpensive plants (seeds). Sometimes dreaming is more fun than buying. My biggest problem is where to put them. I could not steal if I wanted too ... I do not have the space. :)

    Burn my house down? Kill me? I better be getting you some of those Draba seeds in the mail soon. I would not want the Greek Mafia after me.

    James

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  8. Panayoti, The more I think about your little cactus, the more respect I have for it. Something about a cactus that has so many spines that it can shade itself from the extreme New Mexico heat and sun is a remarkable survival adaption. I am trying Escobaria vivipara, which I just aquired this spring. If I can succeed with this species I might be inclined the try others. I just want to stay away from cactus that have those horrible glochids. I hate glochids.

    James

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  9. Escobaria vivipara is super--you could have a garden full of different forms of this, no two the same. I am sure you will do well with it as long as it has lots of sun, drainage and not too much competition. Ditto little 'leei'.

    Glochids are not an acquired taste: I grow dozens, maybe even a hundred or more Opuntia. I do get occasionally zapped, but the more opuntia you grow, the more tongs, tools of all kinds (hemostats, longer and longer tongs) you acquire to keep you at a distance. You learn NEVER to touch them without a long piece of wood, steel or iron between you and it.

    That done, a mound of opuntia in full bloom is as beautiful as any spectacle on Planet Earth: why deny oneself? Especially in our drier regions...

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    1. Why? Simply because I am always forgetting and then ending up with a handful of glocids. I am an OCD weeder and often do not think before I pull a weed. If I lived in the West and most of my plants were cacti, then I might develop different habits. However, a cactus here and there lends one to forgetfulness. Just the other day I poked myself on my little E. vivipara while planting nearby. I can forgive it since the spines do not stay in and become impossible to remove.

      I have a funny story about my E. vivipara. The neighbor's dog came over and thought it was a tennis ball. The dog picked it up in its mouth pulling the cactus right out of its pot. The dog has not made that mistake again. :)

      James
      James

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    2. You gave me a good chuckle with that dog story! Thanks...
      I have fallen more and more in love with cacti: if and when you visit me you will be horrified: I have hundreds and hundreds...and I want MORE!

      They are inebriating in their wonderful variety of spine and pad and column and form. And best of all, they grow with NO WATER!

      I can't believe there was a time I was indifferent to them. Honest: try a few more: I can almost guarantee you will get STUCK ON THEM! (figuratively, of course!)...

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