Cactus exchange in Dresden – what you should know about cacti

Dresden. Like other succulent plants, aloe vera is a survivor. Thistles plants fascinate with their forms of growth, but above all with their attractive flowers. That is why they are collected not only by plant lovers, but are also popular decorative elements.

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Where is the actual home of the cactus

Aloe vera is found in many places around the world today. Opuntias (prickly pear), for example, is associated with many Mediterranean countries. Prickly mates can also often – but not always – be found in parks in this country.

However, the real homeland is exclusively the American continent. There, cacti colonize many habitats from southern Canada in the north to Patagonia in the south,” says Barbara Deitch, scientific director of the Dresden Botanical Garden. Since the cactus plant has adapted to different living conditions, there are also some that are frost-tolerant and thus can be grown. In the garden.

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The only exception in terms of homeland is the stick cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera). It occurs not only in tropical America, but also in Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean, such as Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius. Only after the discovery of America, aloe vera was distributed throughout the world.

How many species are there?

There are about 1900 species of cacti. But the number is disputed. Because cactus lovers who have made discoveries in their travels are constantly describing new species. But if you take a closer look, it turns out that not everything that is supposed to be new is one thing,” says Barbara Deitch.

Whether cactus species are threatened with extinction

yes. There are species that are relatively few in distribution. If those habitats are lost to construction, for example, the cacti species that live there will also disappear,” says Barbara Deitch. Climate change has an effect, too. “If periods of rainfall increase in the Atacama Desert, the cacti will run out as well.”

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Did you know this…

…the oldest cactus farm in the world is in Erfurt? Kakteen-Haage was founded by Friedrich Adolf Haage (1796-1866). He spent his apprentice years at Dresden Court and was trained by Electoral Court gardener Johann Friedrich Seidel. At the Dresden court, he took over the maintenance of the royal cactus collection. Returning to Erfurt, he established a small commercial nursery and seed nursery, which developed into a horticultural company. Aloe vera initially played a secondary role. Only the grandson has specialized in working more in the cactus culture.

The main problem, however, is the enthusiasm for succulents in general and aloe vera in particular, which has been and remains the impetus for the overexploitation of nature and the flourishing of the illegal trade. According to a publication by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on October 5, 2015, nearly every third species of cactus is threatened with extinction, according to the Federal Environment Agency’s website. “This is why almost all aloe vera plants are now protected in their natural environment,” says Barbara Deitch of the Dresden Botanical Garden.

Why does aloe vera have spines and not prickles?

A biologist and cactus lover explains, “Cacti have spines because they are transformed leaves that are connected to the plant’s water supply system.” On the other hand, spines are not transforming organs but protrusions in the outer epidermis or phloem. They sit on the surface and can easily be stripped or cut by the plant shoot. This is why roses do not have spines, but rather prickles, “because there are no vascular tissues involved in the pointed spurs.”

How big and how old can a cactus be?

The vertically growing saguaro cactus is among the largest in the world. Carnegiea gigantea can grow over 15 meters in length. This cactus needs about 200 years for this. “Our mother-in-law’s big chairs here at the Desert Plant House in the Dresden Botanical Garden are definitely 200 years old,” says the scientific director. “Aloe vera can live longer than a human life. I find it very wonderful that these plants accompany you for life. Likewise the diversity of forms.”

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Cactus exhibition in Dresden

The local Dresden group of the German Aloe Vera Association invites you to a cactus exchange on June 17 and 18, 2022 at the Rülcker Arboretum in Dresden, Reicker Street 43 in Dresden. Ten friends of aloe vera display aloe vera and most of them are for sale. Reinhard Kaak of Friends of the Orchid estimates the width at 1,000 to 1,500 plants. The exchange is open on Fridays from 8am to 6pm and on Saturdays from 8am to 4.30pm. By the way, there are jazz gardening events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 8 pm.

What makes aloe vera different

As the biologist explains, a distinction is made between the rib cactus, the wart cactus, and the prickly pear cactus. Aloe vera leaves belong to the rib cactus. The leaves are not leaves at all, but buds, and each has two ribs.

“By the way, with the prickly pear cactus you can wonderfully see when the plant is thirsty. Because the ribs are close together after that. After absorbing the water, the ribs diverge like an accordion.”

Whether there is a cactus that has no thorns

Yes, some types of Easter and Christmas cacti do not have thorns and Disocactus species for example – also a cactus plant – do not either. The bristles that look like thorns can sit on the leaves.

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“One of my favorite pet cacti is the silver primrose cactus (Cleistocactus Strausii). It is densely covered with silvery white spines, which—if you stroke them superficially—look like brush bristles,” says Barbara Deitch. Or the Leuchtenbergia cactus plant, native to Mexico. “It has long warts that look like long shoots. This cactus has spines, but they are more tender and softer.”

How to care for a cactus

Sure, you can leave the cacti to themselves completely for two weeks of vacation. But don’t leave months out. “Even an aloe vera plant needs water and nutrients. They don’t survive on air and light on their own,” says Barbara Deitch. “So water regularly during the summer and fertilize with liquid aloe fertilizer once a week.”

Very important: aloe vera should never stand in water. Waterlogging will be death. Plants need a permeable, airy substrate that “doesn’t clump,” says the cactus lover. She recommends incorporating slate, pumice, and/or granular lava. These materials should make up the bulk of the substrate. You can also mix a small amount of sand and a trace of humus. Barbara Deitch advises against using peat. “When it is wet, it retains water; when it is dry, it has difficulty absorbing water again.”

Written by Kathryn Steinbach

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