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Cacti Amidst Fire and Ice

Posted on July 17 2002

At this time of year, cacti collections are bursting forth in color ~ Mammillarias with floriferous rings of vivid magenta amid Notocactus crowned with yellow, pink, or purple flowers. Fanciful flashes of color from Gymnocalycium, Rebutias, Lobivias and Echinopsis. But amongst the desert cacti, none can surpass the flowers of the Trichocereus grandiflorus hybrids for sheer flower power. Catamarca, Argentina is a land erupting in volcanic fire, quickly changing to the glacial cold of the Andes. Nearby is the most arid desert in the world, the desolate Puna de Atacama. Inhabitants must be very rugged in order to tolerate such extremes in exposure. Trichocereus grandiflorus is such a robust individual. This tenacious Catamarcan columnar, with blood red flowers and decorative spine formations, has been the subject for years of intensive selective hybridization. As a result, Trichocereus grandiflorus hybrids now flower in a vast array of colors, including yellow, rose, crimson, orange, violet, white and even bicolors. Flowers can attain 9" in diameter, rivaling even the giant flowers of the epiphytic "Orchid Cacti" (Epiphyllums). Trichocereus grandiflorus hybrids are excellent for landscapes, being very tolerant of poor soils, extremes in exposure, and in time, forming attractive columns that explode yearly in vivid floral displays. by Renee O'Connell Originally published in Garden Compass magazine July/August 2002 Used with permission.

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