Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Rhipsalis — epiphytic and epilithic, new world and old world — what's not to love?

Andrew asked about the new plant behind the sink, the one on the far left.

This one, a Rhipsalis. He's got a curious mind and always asks what a plant is, but primarily wants to know where it came from (and not just the nursery where I purchased it). Without really thinking about my answer I said "it's a cactus from Africa", to which he replied "no, cactus are New World, you know that"...uhm, yes indeed I do.
But why does Africa stick in my head? Uncle Google to the rescue. It turns out Rhipsalis are "the only cactus with a natural occurrence outside the New World." According to the Wiki: "The genus is found widely in Central America, parts of the Caribbean and a great part of northern and central South America. The center of diversity of Rhipsalis lies in the rainforests of the Mata Atlantica in southeastern Brazil. It is found throughout the New World, but additionally in tropical Africa, Madagascar and Sri Lanka. It is the only cactus with a natural occurrence outside the New World." Well ain't that interesting!

I bought that little Rhipsalis mainly as insurance for future projects. I'd went looking for another to add to the Bromeliad planters and come up dry. Knowing they're okay with low-light (another non-normal cactus characteristic) I figured it would be happy in the house until I needed it outside.

Here's my first Rhipsalis, which survived life in the somewhat neglected Bromeliad planters of 2017 and seems to be thriving this year.

And my second, a much thinner and less textured plant. Unfortunately buying a Rhipsalis (in my experience) you don't get an actual species name, just the genus. There are 35 different species, but growers don't seem to want to give you a complete name. Oh and yes, identifying what I've got is on my list of things to do.

That said this one, which I purchased last June in Spokane (at the Friends of Manito Plant Sale), was labeled as Rhipsalis baccifera.

It was a gnarly mess, which I attempted to clean up.

And it's rewarding me with a lot of bright-green new growth.

Another way Rhipsalis are fascinating (besides their New World/Old World origins) is the fact they are the largest and most widely distributed genus of epiphytic cacti, found as an epiphyte in tropical rain-forests AND some species also grow epilithic or, rarely, terrestrial (source). Okay I know epiphyte but epilithic, that's a new one for me (I know, you're probably way ahead if me and already knew all of this). Epilithic = (Botany) (of plants) growing on the surface of rock. Yes, I should have been able to figure that one out on my own. Lithops are "living stones"... stone = rock. How interesting.

I cut a few pieces of my Rhipsalis baccifera and stuck them in the soil of the Bromeliad planters, they rooted right away.

This is when I must mention a hazy memory from 5 years ago, during a Bloggers Fling visit to the San Francisco Botanical Garden Conservatory of Flowers. I remember Denise of A Growing Obsession studying a Rhipsalis then turning to me and saying something like "Rhipsalis, this is a genus I need to know more about"... ya, me too Denise. It took me 5-years but I'm right there with you!

Weather Diary, Aug 20: Hi 83, Low 60/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

24 comments:

  1. I like Rhipsalis too, but until I read your post I knew very little about it. It produces berries without me ever noticing flowers. I have it in a head planter that goes in the greenhouse for the winter. Those Bromeliad planters came in over the winter, right?

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    1. I read the flowers were fairly inconspicuous. I want berries!

      Oh and yes, the pots were lifted and taken inside last autumn, since I changed them up to trashcan lids this year I'm going to have to devise something to hold them in. Oh gosh...and I hope I can get them through the door. I didn't even think to try that....

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  2. The ferns and bromeliad planters look stunning. I love all of it. Rhipsalis are such interesting cacti, in form and origin. Would be nice if growers put more effort into identifying and labeling, but this is one of those genera that has undergone a lot of changes and the plants can be difficult to identify. That is to, have patience in your own identification efforts.

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    1. Oh yes, the changes, the inevitable shuffling of plants. That would hinder proper ID efforts.

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  3. Fascinating information. The words Cactus and Rainforest in the same context make my brain hurt a little.
    Is the Rhipsalis left of the sink friendly-fuzzy or indeed dangerous?

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  4. I will never remember all that, but I will remember the cactus/new world connection. Don’t think I ever knew that or had thiught about it.

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  5. The background on Rhipsalis is news to me so thanks for sharing it. The difficulty in identifying specific plant species drives me crazy too.

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    1. So many "Bromeliad asst" and "Cactus asst"...

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  6. This explains a lot! I've several plants that look very different all bought labeled only "Rhipsalis" and I've been curious about their diversity but have been to lazy to consult with that famous botanist, Dr. Google. Thanks for sharing the information. They look great cascading down from your bromeliad planters!

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  7. I don't remember ever seeing these in person. I like the idea of a cactus that grows in low light.

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    1. I bet you start seeing them now, having your awareness raised always changes the things I notice in my travels.

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  8. I have been a huge rhipsalis fan for years, I love their texture and how many of them gracefully trail. In Denver, I bought all I could find if they were affordable, for both myself and our clients. I've yet to find any in Tucson, but I do have several nurseries to check out!

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    1. Oh I bet you run across a few, eventually.

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  9. Wow, turns out I know very little about rhipsalis. In fact, I don't currently have any but I'm looking.

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  10. This plant is totally new to me; thanks for sharing. It looks gorgeous in your planters! I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

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    1. Thanks, and I hope you find a couple.

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  11. Yes, I remember that moment too! And I've been collecting them like mad ever since, very often not keeping track of species since most come unlabeled, as you say. I have to admit in this case the relaxed attitude on nomenclature doesn't bother me too much -- some of the physical differences between species are too subtle to keep track of even if I knew the right name!

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    1. I'm so glad you do too! The random things that stick in my memory...

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  12. I'm curious about your flat planters. The display looks amazing and I am wondering if there is any soil in there or just some sphagnum moss or nothing at all.

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    1. There's soil, just enough to anchor things. I planted them up in the driveway and then (very carefully) carried them around to the back garden. I hope they've all sort of rooted together to make bringing them into the basement this autumn easier!

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