Every phenomenon has certain phases of its development. Collecting cacti is by no means an exception. Here’s the list of typical phases, which every cactus admirer inevitably goes through. I’m pretty sure that while looking through this you will probably recognized yourself.
Phase 1: first meeting with a cactus. A man is amazed like a conqueror of the New World.
Phase 2: a man begins to collect cacti. Most of all he likes tall saguaros and spreading prickly pears. He looks for fast-growing cactus species and is determined to collect at least one species of each genus.
Phase 3: a man experiences first troubles when rare and difficult cacti begin to perish. He realizes that it’s not that easy to grow cactuses of each genus.
Phase 4: a man gains more experience and achieves first good results. He tries several acknowledged methods and sets up experiments. Finally he develops his own tips and recipes.
Phase 5: a man finally has a clear-cut idea which cactus species he wants to collect and why. He understands that it’s essentially important to know the ecology and biology of cactus plants, as only in this case he will be able to develop the individual approach to every species.
The situation with cactus names is almost the same.
A man who makes the first steps in collecting cacti knows only one word “cactus”. I should say, he generously gives this name to all plants that fit to his idea of the cactus. Even such plants as aloe, havortia, euphorbia may also fall under this category. It often happens that his young “cactus collection” comprises two thirds of non-cactus plants. And when you tell him that they are not cactuses he doesn’t believe.
Some time later, when the beginning cactus lover enlarges his cactus collection, meets other collectors and gets more knowledge and experience, he learns some popular names as saguaro cactus, prickly pear cactus, rhipsalis, mamilaria and uses them correctly. Now he rarely confuses saguaro with cylindrical prickly pear and becomes more confident in himself, as well as more determined in his hobby.
One more step ahead and he begins to distinguish selenicereus, echinocereus, eriocereus in the bulk of saguaro. But each of them has its species. It seems impossible to keep them all in mind. The most important thing here is to understand why two cactus specialists call the same cactus plant differently and, vice versa, the same name is applied to different cactuses. This very period is the most difficult for every cactus admirer. The system of cactus names seems a complete muddle.
Only when you understand how different cacti are classified and learn the principles and criteria for this classification, you begin to know you cactuses for real and become a true cactus admirer. Only in this case you can achieve good results in collecting cacti. Because you should, or I’d rather say, you must know which cacti you are exactly growing and caring for. You must know their origin, their features and peculiarities, their preferences and whims.