Melocactus, also called Melon Cactus because of its shape, is genus of cactus and one of the favorite plants among hobbyist and commercial cacti growers.
As the name suggests, Melon Cactus form large globular and solitary plant. There are about 40 species of Melocactus that vary in color (from olive to yellowish and dark green) and spines (short grey or black to long red or orange). Mature plants usually do not grow in size and start developing a crown of bristles and white ‘wool’ – the crown is called cephalium. Flowers sprout from cephalium and produce red or pink fruit.
The plant in this picture is Melocactus Zehntnerii.
Fruit attract birds that help spreading the seeds. The cephalium grows slowly and can exceed the height of the body itself giving a unique shape to the plant. At this point the caphelium appears like a Turkish cap – that is why, it is called Turk’s Cap.
Melocactus can grow as wide as 45 to 60 cm in diameter and 15 to 30 cm in height. Melocactus are hard to grow – They prefer bright sunlight but do not withstand extreme temperatures. They grow well during temperate months and hibernate during winter. Because of weak roots, they need special attention throughout the year. Feed and water these plants fairly but allow the soil to dry completely between watering. For best results, re-pot your plants every 2-3 years in Spring season.
Here is 2 years old seedling of mixed species.
Origin: Northern-South America, North-Eastern Brazil, and parts of Peru, Mexico and West Indies.