24 May, 2010

What are Grafted Cacti?

When people see these unusually coloured cacti, quite often they are mistaken as flowers. But in actual fact they are two different species of cacti grafted together.

The brightly coloured cactus that sits on top is actually a mutant variation of a standard cactus. In the wild, if a mutant pup is created, eventually it would detach from the parent plant and sadly die as it cannot photosynthesise. The reason it can’t photosynthesise is because it has no chlorophyll (green pigments), which is essential in the photosynthesis process. So in order for a mutant pup to survive, we have to find some other means to give it nutrients. This is where the grafting comes in.

Rootstock plants, which are able to photosynthesise normally, are what the mutant pups are grafted on to. They can provide enough nutrients for both itself and its grafted partner, allowing both to survive. Common rootstocks used in grafting cacti include species of Hylocereus (what we use here at Fickle Prickles), Myrtillocactus geometrizans, Trichocereus pasacana, Harrisia jusbertii, Cereus peruvianus and many more.

Most of the colourful mutants you will see around are derived from the species Gymnocalycium mihanovichii and Lobivia silvestrii variegate. However, the possibilities of grafting are endless, and not just limited to mutants. The white cacti in the photo above aren't actually mutants at all, but are still visually stunning and offer wonderful colour contrasts to mini cactus gardens.

How to care for Grafted Cacti…

Place these guys indoors or sheltered under verandas or patios as the rootstock is sensitive to the cold and frosts. They do need partial sun, so next to a window is the perfect location if they are indoors.

Very little maintenance is required for these guys to thrive; in fact one of the main reasons grafted cacti suffer is through over watering.
Water them sparingly, only when the soil is dry (this can take anywhere from a week to a month depending on location, time of year and environmental factors). The best thing to do is water them thoroughly and then let it drain. If you are using saucers, make sure to empty them out after each watering.

or more information, visit www.fickleprickles.com.au

What is the difference between a Cactus and a Succulent?

Well, to completely confuse you in the first sentence –
Cacti are actually succulents!!!

“How is that?” you ask? Let me explain…

Succulents are a group of plants that are identified as having cells in parts of their body that retain water:
  • Some plants have these cells in their roots, like some Euphorbias.
  • Others have them in their stems, like Stapliads and Pachypodiums.
Cacti also have this ability and this is why a cactus is a succulent. It is similar to the saying, “All German shepherds are dogs, but not all dogs are German Shepherds.” All Cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.

So what defines a cactus?
All cacti belong to the plant family Cactaceae, and there are many characteristics that identify a plant as belonging to this family. SPINES are not one of them!

Don’t get fooled into thinking that a cactus is a cactus just because is has spines. There are many species of succulents with spines that aren't in the Cactaceae family, such as some Euphorbias and Agaves. On top of that, some cacti don’t have spines at all, like most Lophophoras.

What defines true cacti are areoles. Areoles are what spines, glochids, branches and flowers may sprout from, and all cacti have them, while succulents do not. Areoles are not hard to find – they usually look like small, fluffy, cotton like lumps on the body of the cactus:

Photo 1:
The cactus Trichocereus sp. with white, cotton like areoles.
Photo 2: Another cactus, Trichocereus sp. also with white, fluffy areoles.
Photo 3: The succulent Euphorbia trigona, which has spines but no areoles.

So, the next time you look at a succulent, look to see if they have areoles. Then you will know for certain that it is a cactus, or not. Remember though, there are exceptions to every rule, and cacti are the hardest of all plants to identify. Be prepared for a lot of research and patience if you wish to identify what species of cactus your plant is.

For more information, visit www.fickleprickles.com.au

The Benefits of Indoor Plants

When you think that we spend more than 80 percent of our lifetime indoors, whether it be at home or in the office, it is very important to consider the quality of our indoor environments.

We all want our homes and offices to reflect a neat, clean, beautiful setting to work or relax in, and indoor plants are great way to help achieve that goal. Their colours, shapes and textures all contribute to the look of your home or office.

What you may not know is that not only do indoor plants improve the aesthetics of your indoor spaces, they also have numerous amounts of health benefits, both psychological and physical!

Plants make you happy!
Your mood is very much reflective of your surroundings. Plants can liven up a dull space by adding much needed colour and vibrancy. They can make you feel more 'at home' by creating a cosy environment in which you can more happily live in.

Indoor plants can help you to feel more optimistic, and reduce feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety. It is said that hospital patients who have a garden view to look at out a window recover far more quickly that those who face a wall.

Plants in the office are a great way to improve morale among your colleagues. They help motivate employees by stimulating the brain. Some businesses who have placed several potted plants around their office have reported definite increases in productivity and creativity, and a significant reduction of stress among their staff.

Plants help you fight away colds and allergies!
It is understood that indoor plants can help you to fight sore throats, coughs, congestion, minor headaches, itchy skin, asthma and other symptoms related to colds, flu's and common allergies. They do this by maintaining appropriate humidity levels in your home and decreasing levels of dust.

Plants are your own personal bio-filtration system!
You may have heard of the term 'sick building syndrome' before, it relates to a combination of ailments associated with an occupants place of work or residence. These ailments are due to poor interior environments. Buildings with inadequate ventilation systems, air conditioners and heaters can actually make their occupants very ill. Poorly ventilated indoor spaces are susceptible to many forms of biological pollutants such as:
  • Mold
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Mites
On top of that, new paints, carpets and furnishings are known to radiate volatile organic compounds (VOC's) that are toxic and can cause you harm. It is believed that sick building syndrome can make you feel nauseous, light headed and can be the cause of allergy symptoms and many neurotoxic health problems.

Another contributor of poor air quality can be gas stoves or ovens. Regular use of household gas appliances can create a build up of unwanted nitrogen oxides in your home.

The good news? Plants are a natural filtration system and have oxygen replenishing qualities! They actually absorb pollutants in the air and emit fresh oxygen - It is said that they absorb nasty toxins and pollutants in the air through their leaves and then transmit these toxins to the roots, where they are converted into nutrients for the plant.
By having plants in your home you can reduce the levels of these toxins and contaminants dramatically, leaving the air cleaner and fresher.

Cacti and your computer...
Some electronic devices, such as computers, televisions, video recorders and DVD/CD players emit small amounts of EMF radiation. Cacti are believed to be excellent absorbers of these emissions and can help ease minor headaches and reduce electromagnetic stress associated with EMF radiation. How it works is that the spines on a cactus apparently attract charged ions in the air and change ionisation levels of a room.
So it is a great idea to keep a cactus or two on your desk and definitely next to your computer!

For more information, visit www.fickleprickles.com.au