Cereus silvestrii var. crassicaulis
Chamaecereus silvestrii is native to northwestern Argentina. The plant was collected and described by the botanist Carlo Spegazzini at the beginning of the 19th century but the plant has never been found in the area so the type of vegetation in which it grows is unknown.
Chamaecereus silvestrii is a cactus belonging to the Cactaceae botanical family. The plant has a cluster forming habit, branching from the base and can reach up to 15 cm in height and 30 cm in diameter. The stem is erect at first and then prostrate, it is arranged in 8-10 slightly spiral ribs, divided by light furrows. On the edge of each ribs there are small cream-colored areoles. The areoles bear 10-15 short, greyish to whitish, thin, soft, bristle-like spines. Blooming occurs in late spring and throughout the summer and the blossoms are borne near the apex of the plant. The flowers are numerous, funnel-shaped, up to 5 cm in diameter, shiny orange to bright red. Flowers are made up of many petals and in the center there are yellow stamens which make the plant wonderful. This plant has been intensively hybridized with other Echinopsis (especially Lobivia ssp.). These hybrids are sometime called “Chamaelobivia”.
The plant has a slow growth rate but it easy to cultivate. The best sun-exposure is in bright place but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light in the hottest periods. The minimum temperatures that the plant can withstand are 2° C, below this temperature it begins to suffer so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. The perfect soil is a well-drained soil that let the water to drain away and avoid root rot. To achieve this feature, you can mix the pumice soil, clay and soil. Using a perforating pot, you can drain excess water. Watering is very important for this species and should be done well: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 7 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. About fertilization, for this plant is sufficient to fertilize moderately during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for succulents and stop fertilizing during the winter. You should repot the plant every 2 years in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.
The name “Chamae” is an ancient Greek word, meaning “short, dwarf”: this tiny plants reach a maximum height of a few inches. The specific epithet refers to the silvery color of the spines.
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