San Diego Cactus and Succulent Society Show Highlights, Part 2

ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus

Written ByJen Greene

Posted: June 26, 2024

Part 1 can be seen here

And now…My favorites! I am deeply partial to cacti over succulents, in part because they hold up so well to my benign neglect. I also enjoy the shape they grow in, and for my favorite species, the spines are attractive as well. Most of all, the blooms are so exciting when they come in!

At the show, one of the things that’s really exciting to see is the wide variety of species, including some that are incredibly rare or old. Taking my time to go through the show room a couple times over the weekend meant I was able to run into some of our other members and board directors, which means chatting about what they find exciting, and even learning something new. I briefly chatted with our lovely membership chair, Olga, and she pointed out one little cactus that was representative of an incredibly rare genus that had almost been poached to extinction in habitat. It’s an attractive little cactus (I’ll have photos of it later), but I knew nothing about the genus before she pointed it out to me. Learning something new, experiencing what someone else is excited about at the show – that’s one of the most enjoyable parts of the cactus show for me!

 As with the previous post, if your name or plant are shown and you don’t want it to be, please email at [email protected] and I’ll take it down!


Conversely, if you’d like me to link to your website or Instagram, I am happy to do so.

Let’s Begin! 

We’ll start with the Ariocarpus. I’ve been coming to club meetings and shows since about 2018, and in recent years there’s been a distinct shift in what’s shown. At first, it was just true-to-species specimens, beautiful plants, decades old, carefully grown.

I think pre-COVID, I maybe saw only one or two cultivars like Godzilla or Cauliflower at the show. Post-COVID? The plant boom that occurred definitely had an impact. We have a new vendor in the club who brings some huge examples of the particularly desirable cultivars, but I’ve also seen members start to bring in their cultivars as well.

Below is one of the member plants (looking at the handwriting, might be the vendor, but I don’t remember for sure), a beautiful Ariocarpus “Godzilla” that was staged well and healthy. 

ariocarpus godzilla

This was a gorgeous and well grown Ariocarpus fissuratus ssp. hintonii. What’s super cool about it is seeing the slow spiral shape, like someone took a thinly sliced star and just kinda gave it a half-turn. The dense, compact shape is also indicative of the grower resisting the very strong urge to keep the plant a bit plumper and “happier” in summer. 

While small (only about 4 or 5″ across), this plant is at least 10 years old, likely more, and whoever’s been growing it just kept it in one spot, maintained their watering routine, and kept it going for that time. 

Ariocarpus fissuratus hintonii

First place winner in the category was this beautiful, and also quite old, Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus var. elephantidens from LA Succulents. I have several Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus of my own, and they are a fraction of the size and at least 5 years old. 

So again, we’re looking at 10+ years (likely more) of very careful growing, watering, and placement in the grower’s collection to keep it looking this nice. The owner of LA Succulents seems around my age, so unless he was a particular visionary in grade school, I suspect this was purchased a while back as a specimen plant and he’s been maintaining it in the years since (check the scarred older leaves compared to the newer ones in the center).

Still extremely cool, as changing from one grower to another can sometimes be quite a stressful event for a cactus like this. I’ve definitely sunburnt or sorely stressed some big specimen plants that I’ve taken home, so keeping this looking so nice is a massive accomplishment. 

ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus

Look closely – the Ariocarpus “trifinger” below shows the clear mutation that gives this cultivar its name. Not all of the leaves (cactus protuberences?) will show the trifingers so distinctly, which you can see in a couple of the newer leaves. This one was a particularly extreme example and super cool to see in real life. I can’t think of seeing one quite so nice before, even online, except on a graft from Thailand or China. 

ariocarpus retusus trifinger

If you’re a regular at our meetings, you’ve met Brian Shepherd at least once. This Ariocarpus schaphirostris is well grown and also likely at least a decade or two old. He’s responsible for at least a third of my rare Astrophytum or Ariocarpus in the greenhouse that I’ve purchased as seedlings, and he gave me excellent advice as a novice grower when I first started coming to meetings. 

So here…we see the beautiful Ariocarpus and a well deserved Judge’s Award. 

ariocarpus schaphirostris

Now, we move into the Astrophytum

Again, a category that’s begun to be taken over by cultivars. These have been popping up here and there for years, and I’ve seen at least a couple in every show since I first started attending. This Astrophytum “Super Kabuto” was a really attractive and very pretty pattern, and well staged. I liked the angles of the pot against the angles in the pattern against the round shape of the Astrophytum, and whether that was the reasoning behind the judges’ first place ribbon or not – they seemed to agree!

Astrophytum asterias super kabuto

Conversely, two more from Brian Shepherd in the seed-grown category, showing the natural form. I chatted with him at this show about the cultivars and seed growing, and the difference in forms. He mentioned that in order to grow them with that compact form, and seeing them sort of shrink down to soil level as they do in habitat, you need to specifically grow the nominate form (not a cultivar). 

astrophytum asterias

I’ve seen this Astrophytum in shows a few years now, and I’m borderline obsessed. It’s just labeled as an Astrophytum hybrid but it’s SO. FUNKY. It might be a myriostigma cv. “Kikko”? But the red color is so extreme. I’d love to know what the flowers look like. 

astrophytum hybrid

I moved right along to the Copiapoas, and was blown away by this massive Copiapoa dura. Check out those big, beefy spines and the dark color! I have one of this species as well, but it’s a fraction the size and the spines are nowhere near as amazing. 

Copiapoa dura

This multi-headed Copiapoa haseltoniana was attractively staged with some shattered quartz. Other years, we’ve had some larger haseltoniana be shown, but this was a neat one to see. You don’t often see them with multiple heads in cultivation. 

copiapoa haseltoniana

I think this was a case of staging vs. impressive plant; I also brought in a Copiapoa laui that I’ll show, but this was definitely an older, more hard-grown plant compared to mine. Being brought in and shown in a terra cotta pot with the large stones, while probably great to grow the cactus in, was probably a big factor as to why it didn’t win ribbons. 

Is it still a cool specimen plant? Hell yes, it is. Look at the fuzz and density of the multiple heads! I have two of this species, and neither one is so compact or so fuzzy.

Copiapoa laui

To my delight, my little Copiapoa laui won first place in the Open category for Copiapoa! I’ve had it in this little pot for a couple years, and it’s been slowly growing to spill over the side. I have a piece of petrified wood in there to stage it against, and I’m genuinely proud of how pretty this thing has become over the years. 

That said, it’s grown in my greenhouse with shade, so it’s not as fluffy as the other competitor’s plant, but if I were to water it less and have less shade in the greenhouse it may start to condense and fluff up. 

copiapoa laui

Some categories were leaner than others, but I was still pleased to take home a first place with my beloved Discocactus chrystallophilus. These form a pseudo-cephalum on top, that little pile of fluff and baby spines, and that’s where the flowers come from! This particular plant popped out some fruit and fertile seeds about a week later. 

Discocactus chrystalophilus

A brief little “eee!” from me – pretty sure this little novice cactus is one of my seed-grown Notocactus buiningii that I’ve sold at club meetings. It’s bigger than any of the seedlings I have in pots now, which…they’re all due to be repotted, and would easily increase in size with fresh soil and a fresh pot. 

Even if it’s not one of my plants, I love to see someone else enjoying the species. I think this one took home a first place in the novice category for Notocactus, so props to this grower! 

Notocactus buiningii

Personally, this was my favorite plant in the entire show. Mammillaria perezdelarusae, beautifully dense white fluff with sharply contrasting blackish red spines. It was extremely well staged with a nice, chunky reddish top dresing and the pot it was in was *chef’s kiss*. 

When I posted this to the club Facebook group, turns out the pot is one from TGZ Ceramics! The combination of pot, plant, and top dressing was just gorgeous to me. Props to the person who brought this plant in, it was beautiful. 

Mammillaria perez

And with that – this post has been long already, and picture-heavy, so I’ll split the cacti into two. 

You’ve got the rebutiagymnocalycium, and the rare and unusual species to look forward to next! 

My fellow San Diegans, if you’re not already a member of the club, I highly encourage you to join! You can learn more about meetings and become a member by visiting the club’s page, which I’ve linked for you here

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