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Mediterranean Exotics – Cactuses

Acanthocalycium, Acanthocereus, Acharagma, Ariocarpus, Armatocereus, Arrojadoa, Arthrocereus, Astrophytum, Austrocactus, Austrocylindropuntia, Aztekium, Bergerocactus, Blossfeldia, Brachycereus, Brasilicereus, Brasiliopuntia, Browningia, Calymmanthium, Carnegiea, Cephalocereus, Cephalocleistocactus, Cereus, Cintia, Cipocereus, Cleistocactus, Coleocephalocereus, Consolea, Copiapoa, Corryocactus, Coryphantha, Cumulopuntia, Cylindropuntia, Dendrocereus, Denmoza, Digitostigma, Discocactus, Disocactus, Echinocactus, Echinocereus, Echinomastus, Echinopsis, Epiphyllum, Epithelantha, Eriocereus, Eriosyce, Escobaria, Escontria, Espostoa, Espostoopsis, Eulychnia, Facheiroa, Ferocactus, Frailea, Geohintonia, Gymnocalycium, Haageocereus, Harrisia, Hatiora, Hildewintera, Hylocereus, Jasminocereus, Lasiocereus, Leocereus, Lepismium, Leptocereus, Leuchtenbergia, Lophophora, Maihuenia, Maihueniopsis, Mammillaria, Matucana, Melocactus, Micranthocereus, Mila, Myrtillocactus, Neobuxbaumia, Neolloydia, Neoraimondia, Neowerdermannia, Obregonia, Opuntia, Oreocereus, Oroya, Ortegocactus, Pachycereus, Parodia, Pediocactus, Pelecyphora, Peniocereus, Pereskia, Pereskiopsis, Pierrebraunia, Pilosocereus, Polaskia, Praecereus, Pseudoacanthocereus, Pseudopilocereus, Pseudorhipsalis, Pterocactus, Pterocereus, Pygmaeocereus, Quiabentia, Rauhocereus, Rebutia, Rhipsalis, Samaipaticereus, Schlumbergera, Sclerocactus, Selenicereus, Stenocactus, Stenocereus, Stephanocereus, Stetsonia, Strombocactus, Strophocactus, Sulcorebutia, Tacinga, Tephrocactus, Thelocactus, Turbinicarpus, Uebelmannia, Weberbauerocereus, Weberocereus, Yavia, Yungasocereus

Catuses are symbols for everything exotic

Originating from America, cactuses are symbols for everything exotic. They belong to the family of cactaceae and are also known as succulents. They can grow very old, older than the average human, in fact. Some of them, all Mexican, have lived through more than half a millennium. The Cactacea family is made up of about 1650 species.

It was only when America was discovered that the first succulents were brought to Europe. Today, the Mediterranean would not be what we expect it to be, if it was not for the succulents. In South America and North America, cactuses are used as hedges, for fencing in cattle and around mansions. In some countries, they are part of a healthy diet. Opuntia are eaten sautéed or as salads in Mexico. Of course, that is after the stingy bits have been removed. In Spain, the Opuntia’s fruits can be bought on every market as a delicacy known as cactus figs.

Eating a cactus?

Grilled fresh cactus leaves are yet ano­ther delicacy. A Mexican friend of ours has impressed us last summer serving that very dish. Off he went into the garden, cutting the youngest cactus leaves, removing the thorns and then placing the leaves on the barbeque to roast there side by side with the steaks. To top everything off, he added some fresh goat cheese and let it melt on the sizzling leaves. Delicious!

"Jardí Botànic Pinya de Rosa"Not all cactuses are entirely suitable for eating though. Some species contain alkaloids, such as mescaline. Uncontrolled consumption might lead to everyone seeing colourful things and dancing around the fireplace. The most well-known cactus induced trip does have a name: Peyotl Lophophora williamsii. It has been used as part of Mexican rituals for,

literal, ages. In the 1960ies, the Hippies discovered the Cactus, too. They probably had lots of fun, and lots of hallucinations. We should keep in mind that mescaline is not all that healthy, though. It is also quite illegal.

The “Night Queen”

CactusIn terms of medicine, cactuses are marvels. The “Night Queen”, scientifically speaking Selenicereus grandiflorus, is used for producing medication for the heart as the plant contains secondary metabolites that help sustain stable circulation. The laymen in the meantime can still admire the Night Queen’s buds. There is one single night when the bud blossoms to full bloom, emitting an exotic, intoxicating scent. This year in July, our own Night Queen was in full bloom for the second time since Her Nightly Majesty came to live on our balcony. Just after 10pm, the ivory coloured bud opened, surrounded by violet fringes, as befits a true queen. We welcomed her with cameras and Cavas. Many feminine perfumes use the scent of Selenicereus, enthralling and summerly, even in the dark of winter.

As most of our succulents, the Night Queen growing in our garden has been raised from cuttings. These are bits of the plant that have to be cut off the mother plant during growing season. The cut is then left to dry for a fortnight. Once it has dried up nicely, the young plant can be put into sandy soil. It should now not be watered too often; it is a cactus after all. When it starts growing, it is going to need more water. Growth is a sign for the plant developing roots. All it needs now to develop petals is a bit of luck and lots of sunlight.

“Jardí Botànic Pinya de Rosa”

All those truly loving the succulents should not miss visiting “Jardí Botànic Pinya de Rosa”. There have been plans for urbanising the 500000 m_ that are currently a garden for more than 7000 different species, 600 of them being cactuses.

Very regrettably, the Catalan government has recently abolished all plans of buying the finca and the surrounding gardens. The founders’ heirs would have liked to sell it for 23 million Euros and that price seemed too high. The government were only willing to pay 13 miollion Euros. Now, the green party is eager to find legal ways of how to use the park in a sustainable way while still keeping it open to the public.

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