Blossfeldia

Family: Cactaceae
Habitat: A region between north-East Argentina and southern Bolivia, in the Andes, where it grows between 1200 and 3500 meters above sea level.
Cultivation: Not so easy: put it in a very well-draining soil, water it sparingly in summer and suspend watering in winter and provide it with plenty of light, with the exception of the hottest hours of the summer.-
Curiosity: Blossfeldia includes only one species: B. liliputiana. The name “liliputiana” refers to its incredibly small dimension: Blossfeldia liliputiana is the smallest cacti in the entire world! Lilliput is in fact a fictional country that appear in the first part of the 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, where all the inhabitants are minute.

KEY FEATURES

Blossfeldia is a genus in the family Cactaceae which includes only one species: Blossfeldia liliputiana.
It’s often called B. liliputana, however this is actually an error: the correct name is in fact Blossfeldia liliputiana.
This name refers to its incredibly small dimension: Blossfeldia liliputiana is the smallest cacti in the entire world! Lilliput is in fact a fictional country that appear in the first part of the 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, where all the inhabitants are minute.

Blossfeldia liliputiana a plant native to South America, in particular its area of distribution is in North-East Argentina and Southern Bolivia, in the Andes, where it grows between 1200 and 3500 meters above sea level. It habitat are little cracks in the rocks of vertical cliffs made of shale, often close to waterfalls, with water running over it during continuous periods of time (the humid season), alternating with periods of complete drought (probably the driest season, when the creeks dry up). Blossfeldia liliputiana is an example of extreme adaptability which leads to evolutionary success: some testes show that it can tolerate internal moisture losses of up to 80% in a year, and can survive for one more year in this condition. A similar attitude was recorded only in musses and lichenes. What makes it so tough are also the incredible low density of its stomatas: the lowest density in the entire group of terrestrial flowering plants! Stomatas are little holes in the leaves of any plant (in leaveless plants, they are located also on the stems), which carry out the gas exchanges in any plant: they release oxygen and water vapor and absorb carbon dioxide needed for photosynthesis. In plants native to arid habitats, they are typically less numerous or remain closed longer to prevent water loss in the form of vapor.

Blossfeldia liliputiana is a solitary cacti, without either ribs and spines. Its stem is green and disk-shaped, with a depressed central part, and don’t exceed 1-2 centimers in diameter! Grafted plants, however, are usually bigger. Areoles are white and spirally arranged on the stems, forming a pretty pattern. These little disks can sometimes form clusters.

Its roots are tuberous and strong, to fasten the plant to the cliffs, and the tubers have the function to store water and nutrients against tough periods.

In summer, this plant will delight you with white-pinkish flowers, 6-15 millimeters in diameter and 5-7 millimeters in length, which turn into seeds so small that they look like powder.

VARIETY AND TYPES

As already said, this genus includes only one species: Blossfeldia liliputiana. Check our online shop to find it!

TIPS FOR GROWING

Blossfeldia is not the easiest plant to cultivate, because of the peculiarity of its native habitat. However, if you pay attention with the watering, provide it with a well-draining, poor soil and put it in a bright spot, this plant will reward you with the extreme rarity of its appearance.

  • It requires plenty of light all year round, however preferably avoiding direct sunlight. They grow well even in dim light.
  • It is preferable to keep it at mild temperatures and never below 5 °C, for this reason it is recommended to shelter it during the winter period.
  • Water moderately only when the soil is completely dry. It is enough to water the plant once every two weeks in spring and summer, once every two months in autumn and suspend it completely in winter.
  • A draining soil is an optimal solution, for example formed by a mix of peat and pumice so that water does not stagnate.
  • As this plant grows in vertical cliffs, it’s used to very poor soils and doesn’t need to be fertilized at all. You can anyway replace its substrate once in a while.
  • Repotting is not necessary, as it is the smallest cacti in the world and won’t groow too much.

The propagation method are usually seeds or grafts. The extremely small seeds should be sown on a very fine soils. Then, it’s very difficult to keep them alive on their own roots for the first 4-6 months. During this period, the advised watering method is the nebulization. It will take 2 to 5 years for them to become large enough to be watered normally. That’s why they are almost always found grafted, as their roots don’t fit easily in a normal substrate.

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