Habitat: Central and northern Mexico
Cultivation: They are very slow-growing and rather delicate. Do not expose them to direct sunlight, use a soil rich in inert matter and water very sparingly.
Curiosity: The name comes from the indigenous populations of what is now northern Mexico, the area of spread of this small and rare cactus.
The genus Aztekium includes only two species of dwarf cacti, among the smallest all over the world. They come from north-east Mexico, where they grow usually on vertical limestone cliffs or, sometimes, chalk. The two species are both endemic of two separeted small areas in north-eastern Mexico, in the region of Nuevo Leon, and are threatened with exctintion in their natural habitat. That’s because of the illegal collecting and the natural erosion of the slopes. Their habitat occurs at altitudes ranging from 800 to 1200 meters above sea level. A. ritterii seems to prefer north-facing slopes, rather than south-facing, brighter ones.
Aztekiums barely reach 5 centimeters of diameter and height.
They are globular cacti, however the presence, along their stem, of 8-11 very pronounced ribs makes their section more star-shaped rather than round. The color of the stem is usually light green, yellow in young plants, and its surface is often wrinkled. In A. hintonii, the wrinckles are actually precise lines, fine grooves, that give to the stem a rough, pleasant consistency. The areoles are white and hairy, and are lined up along the surface of the ribs, to form a wcute white stripe. The areoles are the typical buds of cacti, from which the thorns are formed. In Aztekiums, the spines are 1 to 3 for each areole, and are usually weak and small: in young plants are even absent. In older plants, they tend to fall off.
Aztekiums produce many lateral suckers that can lead, in appropriate environmental conditions , to bushiness as they grow.
Flowering occurs after at least five years of life. Flowers grow on the top of the plant and are white or pinkish, very cute and showy: usually there are three-four flowers blossoming at once on the top of a stem.
Flowers end up to form little, pink fruits, capable to open up when ripen to spread the seeds.
Aztekiums are rare: in commerce, mainly due to their extremely slow growth, and in the wild due to the narrowness of their natural habitat.
To accelerate growth, grafting is often used in greenhouses, which creates more rounded plants than those that grow independently on their roots.
VARIETY AND TYPES
As already written, there are only two species of Aztekium: A. Hintoni and the A. Ritteri.
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TIPS FOR GROWING
Aztekium are not easy to grow and have a very slow growth rate. Let’s see together the attention that this small cactus requires.
- Pay attention to shelter the plant from direct sunlight, especially during the hottest hours of the day, preferring semi-shaded positions.
- Keep the plant always above 8-10°C.
- Water every 3-4 days giving a little water at a time and waiting for the soil to dry completely before proceeding with the next watering.
- Choose a soil rich in sand and inert materials, very draining and with little organic matter and fertile.
- Fertilize about once a month by diluting a specific product for cacti in the water of watering, and using half of the dose indicated on the packages.
- Due to its small size and very slow growth there is no need to repot often. Choose rather deep pots, which can easily contain the root.
They reproduce either by seed or through the lateral suckers, which can be detached when they sprout and used as cuttings. To make the suckers take root, wait for the wound to dry and then place them in a sandy, moist bed until germination is complete.