Turbinicarpus subterraneus


Scientific Name

Turbinicarpus subterraneus (Backeb.) A. D. Zimm.

Synonyms

Echinocactus subterraneus, Gymnocactus subterraneus, Neolloydia subterranea, Rapicactus subterraneus, Thelocactus subterraneus

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Cacteae
Genus: Turbinicarpus

Description

Turbinicarpus subterraneus is one of the most unusual and fascinating cacti. The stem is bluish-green, usually solitary, club-shaped, up to 6 inches (15 cm) tall, and up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) in diameter. It is typically prostrate, flaring out after a very long slender neck that separates the large tuberose root from the enlarged apical part of the plant. Flowers are whitish to pinkish-magenta with pink or brown mid-stripe, up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, and up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) in diameter. Fruits are small, greenish-brown, relatively dry, and unattractive.

Photo via ruegenkaktus-weiss.de

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Turbinicarpus prefer to be in a well-ventilated position in full sun to maintain a good body color and spinal development. When it comes to watering, the golden rule is "never water when the soil is still damp." This is the one error that will certainly kill any plant. Watering should commence in the spring, depending upon the weather conditions at the time. The plants should initially be given a light spray to encourage them to grow gently.

These cacti can withstand high summer temperatures and indeed benefit, providing accompanied by proper ventilation. Do not be tempted to overcrowd the plants. They will be far happier with a little space to allow the air to circulate. Winter temperatures can be set as low at 44 to 46 °F (7 to 8 °C). Indeed the plants need these low temperatures to ensure a sustained dormant period resulting in proper growth and flowering the following growing season.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Turbinicarpus.

Origin

Turbinicarpus subterraneus is endemic to Mexico. Its natural habitat is hot deserts.

Links

  • Back to genus Turbinicarpus
  • Succulentopedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus

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Turbinicarpus subterraneus - garden

Accepted Scientific Name: Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus (G.S.Hinton) Lüthy
Kakteen Sukk. 50(11): 279 (1999)

Origin and Habitat: East of San Roberto, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
Habitat: Gypsum outcrops.

  • Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus (G.S.Hinton) Lüthy
    • Neolloydia booleana (G.S.Hinton) Doweld
    • Rapicactus booleanus (G.S.Hinton) D.Donati
    • Rapicactus subterraneus subs. booleanus (G.S.Hinton) Lüthy
    • Turbinicarpus booleanus G.S.Hinton
    • Turbinicarpus subterraneus subs. booleanus (G.S.Hinton) M.Zachar
    • Turbinicarpus subterraneus subs. booleanus (G.S.Hinton) D.R.Hunt
    • Turbinicarpus subterraneus var. booleanus (G.S.Hinton) D.R.Hunt

Description: Solitary (may branch if the growing tip is damaged)
Root: Tuberous, connected to the stem by a narrow neck 1-5 cm long.
Stem: Grey-green, spherical, obovate to turbinate, that become narrower at the collar 2,5-4,5 tall, 2,5-5,5 cm in diameter (often larger in cultivation).
Tubercles: Hard, spirally arranged, closely-set, 4-angled, rhomboid and somewhat flattened and almost truncated above, and somewhat horny or keeled below.
Roots: Strong tuberous roots
Central spines: 2, erect, whitish with dark brown tips, 12-21 mm long.
Radial spines: Usually 18-20 (sometimes fewer or more) white, 3-17 mm long
Flowers: Pale to dark magenta with darker midstripes, on summer days, 2 cm long, 2,5 cm in diameter.
Fruits: 7 mm long, 6 mm in diameter, without scales, dark green to purple, that split open when ripe.

Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Turbinicarpus mandragora group

  • Turbinicarpus beguinii subs. albiflorus" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/18297/Turbinicarpus_beguinii_subs._albiflorus'> Turbinicarpus beguinii subs. albiflorus : has white or very pale pinkish flowers. Distribution: Southern Nuevo Leon?
  • Turbinicarpus beguinii subs. hintoniorum" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/1906/Turbinicarpus_beguinii_subs._hintoniorum'> Turbinicarpus beguinii subs. hintoniorum A.Hofer : has pale greenish yellows blooms. Distribution: Southern Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
  • Turbinicarpus beguinii subs. senilis" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/12677/Turbinicarpus_beguinii_subs._senilis'> Turbinicarpus beguinii subs. senilis M.Zachar & Lux : has a dense covering of glassy white long curved spines. Distribution: Coahuila, Mexico? It may be merely a long spined cultivar (Nursery produced )
  • Turbinicarpus mandragora" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/1893/Turbinicarpus_mandragora'> Turbinicarpus mandragora (Frič ex A.Berger) A.D.Zimmerman : Solitary (may branch if the growing tip is damaged) Stem grey-green , 4-6 cm in diameter that become narrower at the collar. It has strong tuberous roots. Distribution: Coahuila: Parras, Viesca.
  • Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. beguinii" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/1901/Turbinicarpus_mandragora_subs._beguinii'> Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. beguinii (N.P.Taylor) Lüthy : has mostly 12 closely packed, radial spines, up to 17 mm, snow-white, almost glass-like, black tipped. Central spines 1, much longer up to 30 mm, stronger, white with dark brown to black tips. Distribution: Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Coahuila to Hidalgo.
  • Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/1919/Turbinicarpus_mandragora_subs._booleanus'> Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus (G.S.Hinton) Lüthy : has a tuberous root, connected to the stem by a narrow neck 1-5 cm long. Central spines 2, erect, whitish with dark brown tips, 12-21 mm long. Radial spines usually 18-20 white, 3-17 mm long. Distribution: San Roberto, Nuevo Leon.
  • Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. pailanus" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/1927/Turbinicarpus_mandragora_subs._pailanus'> Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. pailanus (Halda & Panar.) Lüthy : has a napiform and bundled root connected to the stem by a narrow neck. Stem olive green becoming corky as it ages.
    Radial spines 11-16 to 10 mm long. Centras 2, one erect one horizontal to 25 mm long. Distribution: Coahuila, Sierra de la Paila.
  • Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. subterraneus" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/1933/Turbinicarpus_mandragora_subs._subterraneus'> Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. subterraneus (Backeb.) Lüthy : has club-shaped stems, up to 150 mm high often prostrate, separated by a slender snaky neck from the tuberose root. Radial spines 16-19, radiating horizontally. Centrals 2 straight, erect: Distribution: Doctor Arroyo and Mier y Noriega Arroyo, Nuevo Leon.
  • Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. zaragosae" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/1940/Turbinicarpus_mandragora_subs._zaragosae'> Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. zaragosae (Glass & R.A.Foster) Lüthy : has a globular to club-shaped stem up to 150 mm high tappering gradually to the tuberous root. Radial spines, 21-25, glassy white with brown tips, central spines 2, brownish black. Distribution: Zaragosa, Nuevo Leon.

Notes: Many of the plants sold as “mandragora” are Turbinicarpus subterraneus or other species not related to the true mandragora. The seeds of this species are very different from that of subterraneus and related species (beguinii, booleanus, pailanus, zaragozae). The Seed morphology of this species is particular and similar to Pediocactus.

Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Edward Anderson “The Cactus family” Timber Press, Incorporated, 2001
2) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey "The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass" Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug/2011
3) David R Hunt Nigel P Taylor Graham Charles International Cactaceae Systematics Group. "The New Cactus Lexicon" dh books, 2006Jackie M. Poole, William R. Carr, Dana M. Price, Jason R. Singhurst “Rare plants of Texas: a field guide” Texas A&M University Press, 30/Dec/2007
4) Nathaniel Lord Britton, Joseph Nelson Rose “Cactaceae: Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family” Courier Dover Publications, 1963


Turbinicarpus booleanus (Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus) Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
Turbinicarpus booleanus (Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus) Photo by: Peiffer Clement
Turbinicarpus booleanus (Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus) Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
Turbinicarpus booleanus (Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus) Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
Turbinicarpus booleanus (Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus) Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
Turbinicarpus booleanus (Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus) Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
Turbinicarpus booleanus (Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus) Photo by: Peiffer Clement
Turbinicarpus booleanus (Turbinicarpus mandragora subs. booleanus) Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli

Cultivation and Propagation: It is a summer-growing species fairly easy and robust to cultivate, but very slow growing. This plant is xerophytic, adapted to dry soils and is quite susceptible to over-watering if kept in a non ventilated place.
Growth rate: Slow-growing.
Soil: Grow it in an open mineral, sandy-gritty cactus compost and provide a very good drainage.
Exposure: It is suited for sunny-brightly exposure, but can tolerate light shade. However it will do its best only with lots of sun and become stressed with inadequate light which could result in poor growth and unnatural shape. Direct sun is also beneficial in order to get a good spine growth. It has a good heat tolerance.
Watering: Waterings should be rather infrequent to keep the plant compact, and avoid its becoming excessively elongated and unnatural in appearance. Furthermore it has a tap root, and watering it properly is often difficult, because it tends to crack open or rot if over-watered. Keep dry in winter or when night temperatures remain below 10° C. Mature individuals easily rot and die especially after transplanting so be extremely cautious with watering. Water it less than average if in bigger pots.
Fertilization: Feed them once during the growing season with a fertilizer specifically formulated for cactus and succulents (high potash fertilizer with a dilute low nitrogen), including all micro nutrients and trace elements diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. They thrive in poor soils and need a limited supplies of fertilizer to avoid the plants developing excess vegetation, which is easily attacked by fungal diseases.
Special need: It is suited for airy exposures. Provide very good ventilation. Nearly all problems occur as a result of overwatering and poor ventilation, especially when weather conditions are dull and cool or very humid. They must have very dry atmosphere.
Hardiness: It likes warmth (recommended minimum winter temperature 5° C) But plants kept perfectly dry can easily survive a light frost.
Pests & diseases: These cacti may be attractive to a variety of insects, but plants in good condition should be nearly pest-free, particularly if they are grown in a mineral potting-mix, with good exposure and ventilation. Nonetheless, there are several pests to watch for:
- Red spiders: Red spiders may be effectively rubbed up by misting the plants from above.
- Mealy bugs: Mealy bugs occasionally develop aerial into the new leaves and flowers with disfiguring results, but the worst types develop underground on the roots and are invisible except by their effects.
- Scales, thrips and aphids: These insects are rarely a problem.
- Rot: Rot is only a minor problem if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much.
Reproduction: From seed, since the plant rarely produces plantlets, or grafted. The seeds can be sown in pots of fine, well-drained sandy soil, any time during the spring when temperatures are warm. Cover the seeds with a fine layer of grit and water from below with a fungicide to prevent damping off. For the 1-2 weeks cover the pots with a sheet of glass/clear perspex to keep the humidity levels high. Remove the glass and replace it with light shade-cloth and mist once or twice a day for the next two weeks after which most seeds should have germinated. From then on mistings can be reduced to every second and then every third day as the little plants grow. The seedlings should not be disturbed until they are well rooted after which they can be planted separately in small pots. Sometimes it is grafted to avoid root rot problems as plants grafted on an hardy stock are easy to grow and no special skill is required.
Turbinicarpus (Rapicactus) mandragora is very slow growing and rot prone when cultivated on its own roots, this is the reason for its rarity.


Cactus and Succulents forum→Turbinicarpus booleanus

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I'm just curious. Also, who here keeps them?

Aridlands is selling seedlings for $8 each in 2" pots. They may be hard in cultivation because their natural habitat is very dry and very alkaline. It doesn't seem to matter how alkaline the soil (just as long as its not acidic) but is very picky about the substrate: loose, rocky and dry. Poorly sorted pumice might work.

I don't know why the trunk is growing above ground. Maybe the same reason that Stush's Euphorbia buruana is.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org


Mine has never flowered and is incredibly slow growing. I have had this plant for about 7 years or so. I got it seed grown from a seller in California, I have their contact info somewhere, they do not have much of an online presence. I started it off with a partially exposed trunk, but as I added some more plants to the pot it is in it got buried like it is supposed to look. It does grow as it is a lot bigger than when I got it, but still not very big.

I will try and snap a picture this weekend, but since the trunk is not visible there is not that much that makes it stand out.


I've read different things about different Turbinicarpus species being self-fertile or self-sterile. If yours blooms would you try to self-fertilize it?


I just looked at the plant and since the last time in consciously looked at it, some of the trunk has come up above soil level - probably because the soil level in that pot has dropped quite a bit (probably time for some repotting activity soon), but I am not sure I could get my camera in at the right angle to show it.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org


Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org



Same plant in cultivation:



Name Status Confi­dence level Source Date supplied
Thelocactus subterraneus Backeb. Synonym TRO 2012-04-18

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10 Agave Cactus

Known as the Agave cactus, Leuchtenbergia principis is unique because of the straight, finger-like protrusions from its main stem. These “fingers” are tipped with small clusters of spines that, in older specimens, can grow into a tangled, protective web on the top portion of the plant. The agave starts off as any normal cactus seedling would and soon develops its points. As it ages, these form into its thick photosynthetic “fingers”. Once the protrusions have formed, the agave maintains its shape and gets wider and sturdier but remains a single plant. This is abnormal because most cacti will either start to produce small offspring at some point, or even “arms” in taller plants.


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