Cochemiea

Family: Cactaceae
Habitat: Mexico
Cultivation: Easy
Curiosity: They look like Mammillarias!

KEY FEATURES

Cochemieas are Cactis, namely plants which belong to the “Cactaceae” family.

They are very similar to Mammillarias: for this reason Cochemia is actually considered as a subgenus of Mammillaria. Anyway a few botanists raise this group of plants to an autonomous genus because of their gorgeous flowers, which are different from the ones of Mammillaria, being very big, scarlet red and, above all, asymmetrical. The flowers of Cochemiea are so large that they are not pollinated by insects, but by birds, especially by hummingbirds! It is these that make Cochemiea so popular in the world of ornamental succulents.

Cochemieas have cylindrical stems, covered in spines which in a few species reach an height of 2 meters! In other species, while always remaining cylindrical, the stems are not erect, but prostrate. All Cochemieas, anyway, branch from the base of the plant, forming typical, spiny, intricate bushes. Moreover, the surface of the stems is covered in bumps like small nipples: this gives to these plants a weird look. From these bumps: spines develop in groups: a group of spines from each bump. The spines grow from a white spot at the top of the bump, wolly in many species, called “areole”.

Cochemieas are rare: they are endemic of Mexico and colonize different habitats depending on the species.

VARIETY AND TYPES

Le Cochemiea sono cactus, ovvero piante succulente appartenenti alla famiglia delle Cactaceae. Sono simili alle Mammillaria e per questo motivo sono considerate un sottogenere delle Mammillaria. Tuttavia alcuni autori elevano questo gruppo di piante a genere autonomo a causa del loro fiore, molto diverso da quello delle Mammillaria: molto grande e asimmetrico. I fiori rosso acceso delle Mammillaria sono cosí grandi che vengono impollinati dai Colibrí! Sono proprio i fiori di queste piante, per la loro affascinante asimmetria, i colori accesi, e le loro grandi dimensioni, a rendere le Cochemiea molto apprezzate nel mondo delle piante grasse ornamentali.

Le Cochemiea hanno i fusti cilindri e coperti di spine che ci si potrebbe aspettare da dei cactus, in alcune specie, i loro fusti arrivano fino a 2 metri di altezza! In altre specie invece, pur rimanendo sempre cilindrici, i fusti non sono eretti, ma prostrati. In ogni caso, le ramificazioni di queste piante partono sempre dalla base, formando quindi dei tipici cespugli spinosi e impenetrabili. I fusti delle Cochemiea sono particolarmente bitorzoluti, pur mantenendosi cilindricci, poiché sono ricoperti da tanti e fitti tubercoli che assomigliano a capezzoli verdi, dando a queste piante una forma molto originale, quasi buffa! Sulla punta di questi tubercoli si sviluppano le spine: un gruppo di spine per ogni tubercolo, a partire da un’organo chiamato “areola”, comune a tutti i cactus, che nelle Cochemiea si presenta come una piccola macchia bianca.

Le Cochemiea sono rare: si trovano, allo stato naturale, solo in Messico e sono tutte originarie della Penisola della California. Sono quindi endemiche del Messico. Gli habitat sono diversi a seconda della specie.

Cochemiea setispina, che in realtà si chiama Cochemiea pondii subsp. setispina, è un piccolo cactus dalle spine bianche, lunghe e fitte abbastanza da non poter toccare la parte verde del fusto senza pungersi, perciò state attento nel maneggiarla! Questa piccola piantina non supera i 30 centimetri di altezza, con il suo unico fusto eretto. Come nelle altre cochemiea il fusto è coperto da protuberanze, sulla sommità di cui ci sono le areole, piccoli punti bianchi da cui gruppi di 10-16 spine si sviluppano. Ogni gruppo di spine ha da 10 a 12 spine disposte in modo radiale e da 1 a 4 spine centrali, di cui di solito la piú centrale è piú lunga delle altre e leggermente uncinata.

A Marzo – Aprile Cochemiea setispina vi delizierà con la sua bellissima fioritura, producendo grandi fiori scarlatti e asimmetrici sulla parte superiore del fusto.

TIPS FOR GROWING

Cochemieas are not very difficult to cultivate: it’s sufficient to follow a few rules and they will grow healthy and produce their gorgeous red flowers.

They usually grow slowly (depending on the species) so you won’t have to repot them frequently. Every two-three years it’s ok. Due to their slow growth and their somewhat strange but original appearance, they are suitable for cultivation in indoor pots (where they can best express their decorative potential) or even in an unheated greenhouse outside the home.

There’s no need to water them in Winter, indeed they should not be watered at all. The growing season begins in March and it’s necessary to increase gradually the watering frequency until the end of May, when the plant should have reached the full growth season. On the contrary, from September you should start to reduce gradually the watering frequency until suspending water intake in Winter. The roots of Cochemiea need to breathe, especially if it’s cold: hence the suspension of irrigation in winter and the need for a very draining substrate to avoid root rot.

If you just bought your Cochemiea or you have recently repotted it, there’s no need of fertilization. After 2-3 years from last repot you can fertilize it using compost or a cacti fertilizer, 273/5000
as long as you do not apply it from September onwards: a fertilization carried out in autumn could cause accelerated growth in a period in which the plant should instead enter “hibernation” and the cold of winter could prove fatal for a growing plant. Better to fertilize at the end of winter or the beginning of spring, the moments when the plant can make the most of the nutrients we have provided.

Cochemieas, if we keep their soil dry, can resist even down to -4ºC for short periods! For safety, however, it is better that the temperature does not drop below 5ºC also because, in the cold, these plants develop ugly spots in the stems.

The ideal spot to put your Cochemiea should receive filtered light, but these plants also tolerate a spot in full sun if it’s not too hot. Better to protect them from the sun during the hottest hours in summer.

The propagation of the Cochemiea can be done by seed or cutting. If you choose sowing, it’s better in Spring, with temperatures between 21 and 27ºC, in a soft soil and always kept humid until germination, which could take from 7 to 14 days.

Official Web Site:
www.giromagi.com

Italian Blog:
www.giromagicactus.com

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