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What is Escobaria?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2016
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Escobaria is a plant genus belonging to the Cactacae family, which includes 23 species. These plants are cacti that grow low to the ground and sprout flowers as well as produce fruit. The plants of this genus are sometimes referred to as foxtail cacti, and range from the southern parts of Canada to the northern parts of Mexico. This genus was named after Rómulo and Numa Escobar by Nathaniel Britton and Joseph Rose, who first used the term Escobaria in their text The Cactaceae.

One common species of this genus is Escobaria missouriensis, or the Missouri foxtail cactus. This species is referred to by this name because it exists primarily around the Missouri River in the United States. The Missouri foxtail cactus is very resistant to the cold, and can survive lighting that ranges from full sun exposure to light shading.

Another common species is Escorbaria vivipara, which is known as the spinystar. This small cactus’ nickname is dubbed because it is covered by star-shaped groupings of white spines. Demonstrating a commonality among many species of Escobaria, this plant can survive very cold temperatures. The spinystar does well in lighting conditions that range between full and partial exposure to the sun.

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Many of the species belonging to Escorbaria were once categorized in the Mammillaria or Coryphantha genuses. One reason that some of these plants were categorized as Mammillaria in the past is because they have tubercles, a defining characteristic of that genus. Some species are no longer categorized as Coryphantha because they do not have the reticulated seeds distinctive of that genus.

Cold climate cacti make attractive nests for soil flies, fungus gnats, and shore flies. While these insects are not a problem in the native habitat of these plants, it is of concern when growing them in wet areas. When eggs are lain at the base of the plant, the maggots begin to feed on it, making it very likely for the plant to develop a deadly fungal infection. There are products specifically made to rid cacti of these pests and increase the plant’s chance of survival.

Even though some species are tolerant of cold temperatures, ice is usually deadly to all Escobaria plants. This is especially true when ice is allowed to build up on the skin of the plants. If kept in a pot, the plant should not be left outside during freezing rains. When kept in a garden, the plants should be covered in order to ensure their survival.

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