Grafted Cacti are one of the most popular types of plants in cultivation today. They have been used for centuries and continue to be used in many cultures around the world. Moon cacti are considered a symbol of fertility and good luck. They were originally grown as ornamental ornaments but they have now become very valuable because their beauty makes them desirable gifts for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, retirement parties, bar mitzvahs and other special occasions.
Moon cacti are native to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. They grow best in dry areas with little moisture (such as desert) and high humidity (like tropical rainforests). Moon cacti do not like too much shade so they prefer moist soil. They will tolerate some shade but prefer full sun. A few species grow well in part shade.
Some species can withstand partial shade but others need full sun. The leaves of moon cacti are usually arranged in clusters called rosettes which are followed by spines called pedicels.
The stem of moon cacti is long and slender and grows up to 4 feet tall. The flowers are white, 1/2 inch across, and bloom from late summer through early fall. Moon cacti produce seeds every year during the springtime when they flower. Most moon cacti are not very hardy and can only survive in a tropical environment or indoors.
Grafted moon cacti are a great combination of two different cacti. They have the appearance of an opuntia with the potato and pepper rootstock of a cardon cactus. Grafted cactus care is easy because they are top-worked onto the cardon cactus rootstock. Grafted cacti are widely available and generally only found at garden shops, nurseries, or large box stores.
Grafted cacti are surprisingly easy to find for a fairly uncommon type of plant but they really are spectacular to look at. They are obviously quite beautiful but when you hear they are actually good for the house you will probably be surprised. Grafted cacti act as natural air purifiers and can remove formaldehyde from the air. They also naturally remove toxins such as toluene and xylene from the air so a living room with one or two grafted cacti may very well be safer than a room without them. Grafted cacti can get quite large and should only be handled by adults.
The name Opuntia is derived from the Greek word “opuntios” meaning “of Opus” (Opus is another name for the island of Chios). The ending “cia” or “cea” in Latin denoted bulkiness. This refers to the fruit which is often too big for the branches to support and so they hang down like a bunch of grapes. The clusters of fruit consist of berries, fleshy, oval, and often reddish in color. Opuntia is a genus of the cactus family.
Most people will recognize an opuntia by its spines, which radiate from a common center and all grow in one plane. Opuntia’s seeds are quite unusual in that they have a tuft of fine hair. Most cacti have only one hair per seed but the Opuntia has many more. The name is derived from the Greek word “opuntios” meaning “of Opus” (Opus is another name for the island of Chios). The ending “cea” in Latin denoted bulkiness and refers to the fruit which is often too big for the branches to support and so they hang down like a bunch of grapes. There are several species of crasitas (little stems) of Opuntia including Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia vulgaris, Opuntia microdasys and many more, but all are edible and have many uses.
Opuntia are very popular as ornamental plants in gardens and people often grow them in pots. They grow very well in poor soil, especially if it is hot and dry. The flowers are large, brightly colored and attract birds. Those varieties which produce large quantities of fruit are self-sowing. Opuntias are hardy, long-lived and tolerant of extreme conditions.
They grow naturally in dry and barren regions subject to extremes of temperature. Opuntias have a tap root that forces its way down between rocks and this gives stability to the plant. The spines offer protection from grazing animals. The flowers develop during the hottest part of the year and are a bright spot for butterflies and bees. The fruit is edible and a good source of food for birds that spread the seeds as they travel from place to place. Opuntia has been called the “weed of the desert” as it can be found growing naturally in barren scrub, dry grasslands and on rocky or sandy soils.
Opuntia has been an important food source for desert dwellers for thousands of years. Native Americans and early settlers ate the pads, which are nutritious and filling. They can be eaten raw or cooked. The pads can be harvested all year round and can be stored for later use. When cooked they have a slightly sweet flavor and when eaten with butter, sugar or salt make a delicious meal.
Both the pads and the fruit are edible and can be eaten fresh or dried for future use. The fruit can be eaten raw or made into jams or preserves. The pads can also be cooked and then dried for use as a nutritious snack. Opuntia was introduced into Europe in 1699. Since that time it has been cultivated in North Africa, Portugal, Spain and on the Canary Islands.
Opuntia ficus-indica is known as the Indian Fig or Common Fig Opuntia and belongs to the Cactaceae family. It’s a thorny, bushy plant that can grow to between 2 and 3 feet high. The oval-shaped pads are green with purple spots when young and turn grey or tan with age. These pads have tiny spines on the edges and when fully grown can reach up to 12 inches in length and 7 inches in width. The flowers are funnel-shaped and may be yellow, pink or red and often have a dark eye in the center of the flower.
The fruits or fruit are small, spherical and orange or reddish in color. They are full of tiny black seeds. The fruits mature in summer and can be red, yellow or orange when ripe.
Opuntia vulgaris is the Prickly Pear Cactus and belongs to the Cactaceae family. It’s a gray-green color and has flat, oval pads that have a smooth surface and grow to between 4 and 10 inches in length and 3 to 6 inches in width. These pads have tiny brown hairs and are slightly curved toward the center of the pad. The flowers are yellow, pink or red and may be up to 4 inches long. They may have a dark spot in the center.
The fruit is oval, spiny and green when immature and ripens to a brilliant red or yellow color.
Opuntia ficus-indica (the Indian Fig) is found from Southern Europe throughout Asia Minor and into India.
Opuntia ficus-indica is found throughout southern Europe and parts of western Asia. It also grows in the Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores and the Cape Verde Islands. It can be found growing wild in Southern Italy, Sicily, Malta, Tunisia and Crete. It’s naturalized on other Mediterranean islands including Cyprus, Rhodes, Corfu and several others. It can be found growing wild along the coast of North Africa, throughout the Middle East and into India.
It’s also been introduced to Australia and the western coasts of North and South America.
Opuntia ficus-indica is commonly known as the Indian Fig Opuntia or Common Fig Cactus.
Opuntia vulgaris grows from Southern New Jersey south to Florida and west to Texas and Oklahoma. It has been introduced into Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia and South America.
Opuntia vulgaris is found in dry, sandy or chalky soil and can also tolerate calcareous or limestone soils without any great harm.
Opuntia vulgaris is commonly known as the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus. It’s a low growing plant rarely exceeding 12 inches in height. The stems are gray-green and form clumps up to 3 feet wide. The stem joints or pads are oval-shaped and have tiny brown hairs. They lack the small spines that other cacti have and are instead armed with tiny, hairlike bristles called glochids.
These glochids are fine enough to get into your skin and if not removed can work their way through your skin and be difficult to extract. They also cause the skin to react to the toxins in the glochids and form a small, red bump around the hair. These bumps are very itchy and if numerous can cause a lot of discomfort.
The flowers are funnel-shaped, have a greenish-yellow hue and can be 1.5 to 2 inches long. They can produce up to 10 pounds of fruit in one season. The fruits are spherical, green, turn yellow and finally a brilliant red when ripe. They can be up to 1.5 inches in diameter and contain up to 300 seeds per fruit.
Opuntia ficus-indica (the Indian Fig) is found growing wild across most of the southern half of Africa. It’s also cultivated for its fruit in many other parts of the world such as Spain, Italy and throughout Asia.
Opuntia ficus-indica is commonly known as the Indian Fig Opuntia. It can also be called the Common Fig Cactus or the Edible Fig Cactus.
Both of these plants are very spiny so it is best to wear heavy clothing and gloves when handling them.
Both plants have been introduced into the western hemisphere and are found growing wild in many parts of North America, Central America and South America.
Opuntia ficus-indica is a hardy plant and can easily be grown in pots or in the ground in temperate climates. It prefers full sun but will tolerate light shade. It should be watered regularly and requires very little fertilizer. It is a very attractive plant and has numerous large, showy flowers that are yellow or green.
The fruit can be eaten fresh or made into preserves, pies or dried for later use. It can also be used to make wine. The fruit contains several antioxidants, has a low glycemic index and can even help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The fruit is also high in vitamins A and C and is a good source of dietary fiber.
Opuntia ficus-indica is one of the most widespread plants in the world. It’s native range extends from South Africa north to Algeria and west to Portugal.
Opuntia ficus-indica is a soft-bodied cactus with fleshy, triangular shaped green stems that are heavily spined. Each stem is around 12 inches long and the spines are around 1 inch long. The flowers are yellow and around 2 inches in diameter. They appear from late spring to early summer and have a faint, sweet scent. The fruits are green when immature and become yellow and finally a brilliant orange when ripe.
They are around 2 to 3 inches in diameter and contain several seeds.
The juice of the stems contains glucomannan, a soluble dietary fiber that swells up to form a gelatinous mass in the stomach. It is used commercially as a dietary supplement to treat obesity.
The juice of the stems is also used as a textile dye, especially for coloring leather.
The juice of the stems contains glucuronic acid, a substance that is used in many commercially available supplements. It helps the body to detoxify itself and can aid in the treatment of liver disease.
Tendons from the stems were used by North American Indians to make ropes. They were also used as a source of salt. In some parts of Africa the stems are made into mats, baskets and other items. The spines can be used as sewing needles or in making small holes while grinding grain.
The stems contain the compound ficin which is a mixture of protein-splitting enzymes. This property gives it some use as a wetting agent and can be used in laboratory work and in the preparation of samples for microscopy.
The O. ficus-indica is well known as a source of fiber for ropes and string.
Sources & references used in this article:
Grafting and budding: A practical guide for fruit and nut plants and ornamentals by WJ Lewis, DME Alexander – 2008 – books.google.com
Effects of vascular bundle sizes of scions and stocks on graft-take and growth of grafted cactus, Ruby Ball by SJ Jeong, JS Lee, SC Lee, WS Kim – Horticulture Environment and …, 2006 – dbpia.co.kr
Cell union in herbaceous grafting by JS Wright – Botanical Gazette, 1893 – journals.uchicago.edu
Effect of Stationary Room Temperature on Graft-Take and Post-Graft Growth of Grafted Cactus Ruby Ball by SJ Jeong, WS Kim, JS Lee – Horticulture Environment and Biotechnology, 2007 – dbpia.co.kr
Protected cultivation of cacti and other succulents by P Das, PC Panda – Advances in Horticulture, 1995 – researchgate.net
The Double-Cut Techniques for Grafting Cacti to Trichocereus pachanoi Rootstock by D Bach – 2009 – repository.arizona.edu
Plant grafting by CW Melnyk, EM Meyerowitz – Current Biology, 2015 – Elsevier
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A new dark red graft cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii) cultivar,” Simhong”. by MI Jeong, BN Chung, PM Park, WH Kim… – Korean Journal of …, 2007 – cabdirect.org