Habitat: Southern United States, from New Mexico to California and Mexico
Cultivation: Pediocactus is more difficult to cultivate than other cacti, due to its susceptibility to rot. Mexican species are generally more robust than those developed further north.
Curiosity: The name Pediocactus comes from the Greek word “Pedion”, meaning flat or level, and refers to the shape of the plant: sphe, but very flattened on top.
The genus Pediocactus includes some species of globose cacti of different sizes: from P. knowltonii, considered the smallest cactus in the world, to other species that reach larger sizes, but always quite small (max 15-20 cm in diameter).
Pediocactus are from Southern USA. Their habitat usually consists in desert shrublands, on rocky soils, often slopes, in spots exposed to sunlight and strong winds, in wide ranges of altitudes: from 100 to 2500 meters above sea level! Some species prefer limestone sites, others grow on pebble slopes, associated with juniper scrubs. Many species are endemic and inhabit very restricted areas, being threatened by illegal collection and habitat loss. Illegal collection is common due to they being dwarf cacti: dwarf, rare cacti, in fact, are among the most sought after by collectors. Also, their gorgeous blossoming make them really popular and appreciated by cacti lovers.
Pediocactus are dwarf, almost sphaerical cacti, which usually form pretty little clumps of stems.
The stem is bright green, spherical but depressed, almost completely flat at the top: this is the feature that gives the name to the genus. It is furrowed by tubercles from which stumpy, white radial spines grow, sometimes with reddish shades. In some specimens, these spines can create a very dense pattern.
At the top of the plant, the thorns become longer and stronger and often acquire brighter colors. The areoles, which are the buds of every member of the family of Cactaceae, are usually prominent, white, rounded and woolly, giving the impression of snowflakes or cotton bows and making the plant even preettier.
Also from the top of the plant, the flowers sprout.
Flowers are daisy-like, relatively large compared to the plant, and can take on different shades of color: bright yellow, white or greenish-white, pinkish, up to intense magenta.
They bloom in spring, around April-May, and the corollas remain closed on cloudy days.
Their roots are succulent and fasciculate, adapted to seek for water in the soil depths, to survive to the severely arid conditions of its natural environment.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Here below are the main species of Pediocactus recognized to date. Some classification systems report only a few of these species, and group the others into other genera.
- P. bradyi
- P. despainii
- P. hermannii
- P. knowltonii
- P. nigrispinus
- P. paradinei
- P. peeblesianus
- P. sileri
- P. simpsonii
- P. winkleri
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TIPS FOR GROWING
Pediocactus is more difficult to cultivate than other cacti, due to its susceptibility to rot. Mexican species are generally more robust than those developed further north. These are our recommendations:
- Choose a bright, well-ventilated location. Filtered sun is preferable to direct sun. If possible, put your Pediocactus outdoors: these cacti don’t survive easily neither in greenhouses.
- Pediocactus are plants that enjoy warm climates. In winter, keep them above at least 5-6 C°. In exceptional cases they can survive to short frosts, up to -7 C°, as long as the soil is well dry.
- Water carefully, every 3-4 days, waiting for the soil to dry completely before each irrigation. It can be watered more abundantly only during the spring, at the vegetative resumption.
- Choose a soil enriched with sand or pumice, but absolutely no peat or other organic material: it will damage the roots of the plant very quickly and ruin it!
- Fertilize in early spring with a specific product for cacti, using half the doses recommended on the packaging.
- Repotting is rarely necessary, given the small size of the plant.
The propagation of Pediocactus is carried out mostly by seed. Rarely these plants produce suckers, but, when they do, these offsets can be detached from the mother plant and used as cuttings.