What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Habitat, nursery/collection and show tours.
Marlon Machado
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by Marlon Machado » Sun Oct 21, 2007 6:20 pm

Hi Ian,

Well, we always tend to photograph the nicer plants that we see in habitat, and for sure each population of Melocactus has its share of old, scarred, unattractive specimens.

But I must agree with you, most plants in habitat are usually quite nice. I believe the secret for the flawless of Melocactus plants in habitat are the generally better weather conditions they experience, and also their much shorter lifespan when compared to Copiapoa or Echinocactus.

Another factor is that the epidermis of Melocactus is designed to live a long life - it has to stay green and photosynthetically active for many years, because after the cephalium starts to develop there is no further growth of the vegetative body of the plants. Thus, the formation of bark is greatly delayed and reduced, and the epidermis remains green, unlike in the plants of Copiapoa or Echinocactus, where the lower portions of the body turns corky and brown over time.

Cheers,
Marlon Machado.

Institute for Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland.
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by Bill » Sun Oct 21, 2007 8:14 pm

Hi all

Can I just say this has to date been a very interesting thread even though I have no interest in cultivating these fascinating plants. Thank you Marlon for starting it and all those who have contributed so far.
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by Julie » Sun Oct 21, 2007 8:54 pm

Hehe, me too Ian. They look huge too in that great pic. The red hats really stand out against the landscape.

Imagine, they have been there longer than we have, and didn't need coddling in a greenhouse to get there, and they will do just fine without humans. (that's what I always feel amazed by, when I see a habitat pic.)
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by Trevor » Mon Oct 22, 2007 2:43 am

Hi Marlon,

How accessible are these habitats in Brazil ? Are they mostly on private property -ie farms, or is a lot of it in wilderness ? Is travelling to these localities generally easy or are they very hard to get to ?

Seeing these incredible photo's, those you posted of Notocactus uebelmannianus in my other thread and reading the Uebelmannia book, really has me thinking about visiting Brazil sometime in the future...
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by iann » Mon Oct 22, 2007 1:58 pm

[quote]didn't need coddling in a greenhouse to get there, and they will do just fine without humans[/quote]

I think a pot in a greenhouse in England is a tough life compared to the right spot in the wild (and of course they only survive in the "right spot"). Too hot half the time, too cold half the time, too little light most of the time, radical changes in light levels from winter to summer, cramped overheated roots either bone dry or drenched in water, very likely some soil minerals missing and too much of others, its amazing we can keep them alive at all!
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by Stuart Estell » Mon Oct 22, 2007 2:20 pm

I've proved several times that I can't ;)
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by Marlon Machado » Mon Oct 22, 2007 2:37 pm

Hi Trevor,

The habitats of cacti in Brazil are quite acessible, although you often have to travel long distances between places to see different plants, or species that have more restricted areas of distribution. But in general, it is not difficult to see cacti in Brazil, provided that you know where the different species grow :) In the northeastern region of Brazil the majority of the cactus genera comprises species which are columnar, the only exceptions are Melocactus and Discocactus. But columnar is definitively not a synonym of boring, and there is a huge diversity of columnar species, like Arrojadoa, Micranthocereus, Facheiroa, Pilosocereus, etc. In the southern region however, it is the opposite: species of the genera Parodia and Frailea are plentiful, whereas the only columnar species is Cereus hildmannianus.

Some beautiful habitats are located in National or State Parks, for exemple the habitat of Discocactus horstii, and the type locality of Melocactus glaucescens and Discocactus zehntneri subsp. boomianus. However, the majority of habitats are within private land. It is not like in Chile, where you do not see any fences anywhere, and you can just wander in the field. In Brazil the habitats are usually found within fenced areas, although you can also find plants growing by the side of the road. But the fact that the habitat is in a private land usually is not a problem. If the habitat is within a fenced area and you see a farmhouse nearby, then you go there and ask permission of the owner to enter the place - permission is usually granted without any problems. If the habitat is within a fenced area and there are no houses around (which is often the case), then you simply jump the fence and go see the plants anyway. Sometimes it happens that somebody notices your presence and comes to ask what you are doing, but the people in the countryside are very friendly and will not mind allowing you to continue to photograph the plants - actually, they find it rather amusing that people have interest in cacti and came from far away just to photograph them, because for the local people cacti are perceived as common plants and believed to grow everywhere.

There are still many pristine habitats to see, some of which are truly breath-taking. But in many places the advance of civilization has took its toll, and the original vegetation - cacti included - has been cleared for agriculture, pastureland, road-building, housing, etc.

If you want to visit Brazil, I will be very happy to guide you and take you to see the best habitats around here - talk to Paul Klaassen during the trip in Chile, and convince him to come as well. Paul is owing me a visit for years now.

Cheers,
Marlon Machado.

Institute for Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland.
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by Marlon Machado » Mon Oct 22, 2007 5:25 pm

Here is a picture of another nice thing to observe when visiting Melocactus populations in habitat: a lizard eating the fruits of a Melocactus glaucescens.
Ian, this is an example of a not so nice looking plant of Melocactus in habitat :) But to be fair, the photograph is not so good, and the plant was very dehydrated at the time - the picture was taken at the peak of the dry season. It is funny to observe how the lizards run to the plants and climb the spines to get to the fruits!

Cheers,
Marlon Machado.

Institute for Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland.
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by Marlon Machado » Tue Oct 23, 2007 4:35 pm

Another picture of a hummingbird visiting a Melocactus flower in habitat - this time the hummingbird is the Hooded Visorbearer, Augastes lumachellus, visiting the flowers of Melocactus paucispinus at Morro do Chap?u, Bahia:
Cheers,
Marlon Machado.

Institute for Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland.
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Re: What would you like to know about Melocactus?

Post by Maria J » Tue Oct 23, 2007 5:01 pm

Truly stunning!! The Melo is quite deeply buried too!
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Tending more towards cacti :D, particularly Gymnocalyciums, Rebutias, Sulcorebutias, Echinopses, Thelos, Feros and Mamms (and anything else I like the look of!) all in an 8 x 6 polycarb greenhouse and a few windowsills!
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