San Diego Cactus and Succulent Society Show Highlights, Part 3

Written ByJen Greene

Posted: June 28, 2024

See the previous posts…

Part 1

Part 2

Continuing the discussion on cacti from the last post about the show highlights, we’ll continue through the rest of the cactus category. Compared to the intensely popular Ariocarpus and Astrophytum, these categories tend to have fewer varieties or cultivars (Gymnocalycium being a notable exception). Many of these genera are my favorites, and this year we had some very very cool plants entered and shown!

Below is a cactus from one of our most popular vendors, Miles’ to Go. It’s a beautifully well grown hybrid, Ferostamos ‘Narrow Minded’. He notes on the card that it’s a cross between Ferocactus glaucescens and Stenocactus phyllacanthus

The narrow spines and density of them is very attractive, and it’s a very neat cross. It won first in the category (you can see the hole punched indicating the win), and also took home a Judge’s award. 

Below is one of my entries in a new category for me to enter a cactus in, the Melocactus category. I’ve always been daunted by this one – the impressive specimens I’ve seen others bring in have taller cephaliums than my own plant, and I worried mine wasn’t old enough to be impressive. 

My worries were misplaced! The category was small, but I still took home a first place with my  Melocactus concinnus. The species is known for being rapid to grow to a size that develops a cephalium, and I was excited that mine started producing one fairly early after I acquired it in 2020. 

melocactus concinnus

In the novice category, this Melocactus matazanus took a first place and was worth stopping to admire. Ron Labaco had it very well staged, despite it also looking young (like my plant), but the pot, top dressing, and combination with the cactus itself is gorgeous. This won’t stay a novice category plant for long! 

Melocactus matazanus

Below, this Strombocactus disciformis from Brian Shepherd took home Best Mexican Plant in Show. While not always particularly hard to grow, they are very slow growing, and can be touchy about overwatering. Seeing one this size indicates years and years of careful cultivation to get it to this size and maintain it. 

My little Glandulicactus uncinatus took home a first place ribbon in its category, although it was side by side with a rare little cactus from Woody of Cactus Data Plants. 

The species has been reclassified as Sclerocactus uncinatus and even shows up on Google as a Ferocactus relative, but I originally purchased it as Glandulicactus. It may look familiar, as I’ve shown it before, and the pot is very distinct and striking. 

Glandulicactus uncinatus

The little cactus sharing my category was this Pediocactus knowltonii, an extremely rare and endangered cactus from the edge of New Mexico and Colorado. They were heavily over-collected after their initial discovery, and the entire genus is heavily endangered. They are also extremely challenging to grow, sensitive to humidity, air flow, and are very slow to gain size. 


I was super enamored with this tiny little Turbinicarpus pseudomacrochele ssp. krainsianus. Branching in the way this plant is doing indicates that it’s older, as they start off with just one stem but then branch with age. 

turbinicarpus pseudomacrohele

Moving into more of the Mammillaria, this little Mammillaria theresae was an inspiring specimen to see. I have two of these diminutive cacti but only as a single stem, this clump with blooms coming in was clearly an older, established plant. And as such, it won Best Mammillaria in the show! 

mammillaria theresae

This Mammillaria plumosa was an impressive specimen with multiple heads and a nice, compact growth to it. These are occasionally available at big box stores or nurseries, but usually only as small single plants or smaller clusters. I’ve tried to grow them before, and I am guilty of improper watering most of all – mine would either get too much water, and rot, or I’d water them less and then they’d dry out. 

So this one – ahh, goals! 

Mammillaria plumosa

Back to the land of tiny – this Escobaria abdita from Miles’ to Go captivated me. These grow in extremely harsh conditions, retreating to the level of the soil and showing just a few spines above ground. After rain, it pops back up, faintly green but very densely spined. 

They’re hard to grow, quite rare to encounter, and need bright, full sun for their best appearance. 

escobaria abdita

Now, we’ll take a look at the Gymnocalyciums

The exceptional specimen below is from Thorn Oasis, the vendor with the incredible Astrophytum and Ariocarpus cultivars, and it’s no surprise he also has this beautiful variegated plant as well. This is the same species as the popular Moon Cactus you’ll see as a grafted plant, but when it has the darker portions (what looks dark purple on this cactus), it’s able to photosynthesize and can grow on its own roots. 

gymnocalycium mihanovicii variegated

Below is a beautiful cactus that made me want one immediately – a very attractive and tidy Gymnocalycium triacanthum. The tight, close-growing spines are quirked and not as straight as other examples visible online, indicating this is a unique clone the collector has in their collection. Jealous! 

gymnocalycium triacanthum

This big, beefy Gymnocalycium pflanzii had a bloom opening, and was a Judge’s Ribbon winner as well! 

One of my favorite aspects of this species is how a well-grown specimen can look like it’s sharply chiseled, almost cut out of stone. This one shows those characteristics very well, and it’s got that lime-green base color that some varieties have. Very nice plant! 

Gymnocalycium pflanzii

Meanwhile, my little Gymnocalycium pflanzii var. albipulpa took a second place ribbon – to my eternal frustration, this one never gets as deeply purple as the other specimen in my greenhouse in a plain plastic pot. Despite keeping this in a show pot, with inorganic soil, and sun stress, it also doesn’t get as chiseled as the blue-ribbon winning specimen. I think that’s a function of this particular variety though, not so much my growing. 

gymnocalycium pflanzii albipulpa

As I was competing with the variegated Gymnocalycium in this category, it’s not a surprise I didn’t take home a first – but my little Gymnocalycium amerhausii took third! 

Seeing it here in the show, I could probably stand to water it a touch less. It’s definitely plump and happy, and has been producing bloom after bloom for me. My hope is to produce some seed this year, so I’ve kept it (and the other one I have at home) a bit happier than usual. 

Gymnocalycium amerhausii

Last, but definitely not least, was this incredible Gymnocalycium baldianum with not just a crest, but also some mild variegation as well. This thing was SO COOL. I’ve never seen a baldianum so big before, or one with variegation. 

Gymnocalycium baldianum is a species that’s fairly common, usually, seen at stores and nurseries all over the US. It’s easy to grow, a beautiful bloomer, and a cute little cactus. 

This thing? Enormous, ridiculous, and amazing. 10/10 in my book, and should have taken home a ribbon!

Gymnocalycium baldianum

I’ll wrap the show recap with one more post and photos galore of the aloes and hybrids, along with any last cacti I missed. 

Thank you for following along with me, and I hope you’re enjoying the enormous photo dump! 

You may also like…