Lophophora williamsii, the sacred cactus illegal in some states: let’s get to know the infamous Peyote

Yes, it can be grown but not sold… no, it cannot be cultivated nor sold… Yes and no at the same time: only young specimens can be raised because, after seven or eight years, the plant produces the notorious mescaline, and it becomes illegal (therefore, it must be incinerated???). Yes, you can keep it, but only if purchased before 2006, because it’s from that year that the plant was included in the “Testo Unico sulle Droghe” (Law-framework on drugs). In Italy and in many other European countries, about the cultivation of Lophophora williamsii (a Cactaceae also known as “peyote” or “peyotl”), people have been said everything and its opposite. This is because in Italy and in some other European countries, the possession and the sale of this cactus have been the subject of normative interventions, but, as it often happens, laws are muddled, lacunose, obscure and, from a logical point of view, sometimes not very coherent. For example: in the tables attached to the Italian law on drugs, it is mentioned only Lophophora williamsii, when cactus experts know very well that of Lophophora, besides williamsii, there are several other species: decipiens, diffusa, fricii, koehresii, alberto-vojtechii.

In this article, relying on official sources, we will know better this particular kind of cactus and see in detail what the Italian law exactly says. Please remember that this plant is illegal in Italy as well as in other states, so you better check the legislation of your country to avoid taking risks! (…)

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Mammillaria luethyi, the incredible story of its discovery in the Fifties and tips for growing it

Unlike what usually happens with cacti, Mammillaria luethyi was first observed by a researcher not in its habitat but in a… coffee can. Weird? Wait until you read the whole story, then. Yes, because the discovery of this species of Mammillaria is relatively recent (half of the Fifties of the twentieth century) and still today we cannot certainly define it as a widespread plant in cultivation or regularly available on the market. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most fascinating species among Mammillaria, one of the most intriguing and undoubtedly the one having the showiest flowering, and at the same time delicate and charming.

As a counterbalance to these qualities, there are some difficulties in cultivation and the tendency of the root to rot: these aspects, in addition to the slowness in growth, make M. luethyi reserved for pure enthusiasts and experienced cactophiles, although with not a few difficulties.

The following article was published in Volume 61, Issue 2 (May 2021) of the Journal of The Mammillaria Society. Thanks to the editors for their welcome publication.

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From mid-April the cactus blooms come to life: a photo gallery

Mammillaria, Turbinicarpus, Ancistrocactus, Echinocereus, Lobivia. These are just some of the many kinds of cacti that bloom in the month of April, in late spring. In this time of year, with the increase in temperatures and with the first waterings, it can be said that the cactus blooms really come to life to follow one another continuously until summer.

In this photo gallery we see some of the blooms of these days in my greenhouse.

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Plastic, terracotta, square or round? Here’s how to choose pots for cacti and succulents

Plastic or terracotta pots? Round, square, shallow or deep? And then again: is it better to have one plant per pot or several plants in one box or in a large bowl? At first glance, the subject may seem trivial, but the choice of the right vase for growing cacti and succulent plants has an undeniable impact on the consequence of the cultivation. The choice of the right pot, it can be said, is indeed closely related to the type of cultivation we adopt for our plants (indoors, on a balcony, in a greenhouse, in the open air, etc.) and to the various elements that characterize it, such as watering, type of substrate, exposure, temperature, and much more.

Net of purely aesthetic and therefore personal choices, let’s see how to choose the right containers for succulents’ cultivation, evaluating the pros and cons of the various shapes and materials with which the pots available on the market are made. (…)

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Preparing cacti and succulents for spring: exposure, fertilizing, here’s what to do

Bright blooms, fleshy and brand-new leaves, sparkling spines sprouting from the vegetative apices: for succulent plants, spring represents a real rebirth. Here in Europe, the vegetative stasis that characterizes the winter of most succulent families ends between the second half of February and the beginning of March, when the plants gradually resume vegetation and reactivate the root system. For some families, the restart is evident: this is the case of Cactaceae, which already in February show new spines and often the first flower buds (genera such as Stenocactus, many species of Turbinicarpus, some Mammillaria, etc.). Also, leafy succulents such as Crassula, Echeveria, Portulacaria, Aloe, Adenium are well-known for producing new shoots, new branches and leaves. For other species as the Agavaceae family, the recovery is less evident: it slowly forms fresh sprouts at the centre of the apical rose, destined to be noticed only in a few months, when the separation of the true leaves will take place.
Whether the recovery is sudden and flashy or slow and hidden, in March it’s essential to devote some extra care to succulents: in this way, it will be possible to obtain healthy and robust plants that show their full potential development and flowering.

Now let’s see everything we can do at this time of the year, especially if we don’t have a greenhouse and we grow on the windowsill, on the balcony, on a terrace or in the garden. With a warning: whatever you have to do, with succulents and cacti, you must not be in a hurry: hurry to water, hurry to treat, hurry to move the plants… Getting caught up in the rush, the anxiety, the fear of doing something wrong, is the best way to run into mistakes. So let’s see how to avoid them. (…)

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