Echinopsis 'Vera Norman' - Cactus Club

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Echinopsis 'Vera Norman'

Plant of the Month > Species E to F

by Bruce Brethauer

       The Echinopsis Genus has long been a a popular group with cactus growers and flower lovers. Many species and countless hybrids and cultivars are favored for their beautiful, and large flowers held high above the stems on very long tubes. The range of flower colors in this group is amazing, from pure whites, pastels of creams, pinks, and pale, buttery yellows, through the most vibrant magentas, yellows, and reds. Many cultivars have different colored midribs on their petals, giving some flowers a bi-colored appearance. The range of flower colors to be found in the species and cultivars of Echinopsis closely reflects the color range to be found in the entire Cactus Family: the only color which these plants cannot produce is true blue. While the flowers of most hybrids are from 3 to 5 inches across, some plants produce gigantic flowers, to 8 inches across (or possibly larger).

       Most of the plants to be found in cultivation are easy going, and are easy to grow, and are reliable bloomers, responding well to my general guidelines for growing cacti and other succulents. In recent years, the Echinopsis Genus has been greatly expanded, and now contains plants which had been previously classified as Lobivia, Trichocereus, Helianthocereus, Soehrensia, and Pseudolobivia.     

       Society member, Doug Sweet, has been a long time grower of Echinopsis, and over the years, he has propagated tens of thousands of seedlings, including many plants which he had intentionally hybridized. This month's plant was one of Doug's hybrids, and he felt that it was exceptional enough to honor our oldest member, Vera Norman, by naming this plant after her. Vera has recently celebrated her 101st birthday, and still maintains a remarkable collection of cactus and other succulents in her collection. One of Vera's great passions are the Echinopsis, which she has been growing and exhibiting for more years than most of us have been alive, winning many blue ribbons over the years at various flowers shows in Central Ohio for her exceptionally grown plants. Two years ago, Doug presented Vera with a number of pups from this plant, and shared several others with myself and a few other members of the Columbus Cactus and Succulent Society. The plant featured here is from one of those pups.     

       The Flowers  of Echinopsis 'Vera Norman' are attractively colored, with light fuchsia petals with watermelon centers (my camera tends to artificially intensify colors and contrast: while I have tried to correct for this , these images may not quite match the colors of the flowers perfectly). The first flower on my plant, measured almost 3 inches across , and as this plant matures, I suspect that subsequent flowers may be somewhat larger. Sadly, the individual flowers are short lived - I have had 3 flowers on my plants, and and each of these only lasted a single afternoon, but the flowering period on established plants may last several weeks, as a mature plant will produce multiple buds, which will flower over a period of time (usually in spring, but possibly extending into early summer. Removing the many pups which grow from the base of the main stem should result in more blossoms, but new plants must be propagated from the pups or tissue culture, as the various hybrids and cultivars will probably not come true from seed grown plants.     

     At present, my plant is globose, and I am not certain if it will remain like this with age, or if it will become more columnar as it matures. But like most of Echinopsis plants, this one tillers prolifically from even a very early age producing additional offsets with each year.  The spine clusters are well spaced, and the spines are fairly short. It has proven to be very easy to grow, and very tolerant of the various growing conditions which it has been subjected to. My experience even indicates that it will tolerate extended periods of near freezing temperatures during its winter dormancy (it will not survive prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures - as Doug Sweet will confirm). My experience with this plant has gotten me a bit stoked on growing additional cultivars. In the past, I had been a bit intimidated by the other masters in the society, and thought that I could never achieve their great results with these plants. Don't make this same mistake I did, give these wonderful plants a try - you too might become hooked on them.     

   Sources: There are only a few Echinopsis 'Vera Norman' plants in cultivation - but with time, expect to see a few at future sales of the Central Ohio, and Midwest Cactus and Succulent Societies.

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