Sand Dollar Cactus Propagation Guide

The Sand Dollar Cactus is known for its scientific name Astrophytum asterias. It is known for its other names, including sea urchin cactus, star cactus, or star peyote because of its appearance. The exotic look of this succulent plant makes it very popular with collectors, but its huge demand is one of the reasons why its population is dwindling nowadays.

The Sand Dollar Cactus is native to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and northern Mexico. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, the plant started becoming popular to collectors as early as the mid-1800s. However, the overcollection of the succulent, as well as overgrazing and fire suppression measures, have contributed to its scarcity.

Sand Dollar Cactus Astrophytum asterias

The succulent is characterized by its flat and dome-shaped features. It is a green spineless cactus that can grow up to 15 cm in diameter. The plant has white hairs dividing its sections or stems giving it an appearance similar to a pumpkin or sea urchin. With proper care, growers of the succulents are rewarded with 3-5 cm yellow flowers that have red to orange highlights between March and May.

Propagation

Like most succulents, the Sand Dollar Cactus is easy to propagate and maintain. It can be grown using its seeds or offsets.

1. Using Seeds

Start by spreading the seeds on a tray and wrap the container with a plastic cover on top. The cover will help maintain the moisture and heat of the seeds. In addition, this keeps them away from pests. After that, acclimate the seeds under direct sunlight for a few weeks before transferring them to a container partially filled potting mix.

Propagating the plant via its seeds can be challenging though because the seeds are quite fragile and have a short shelf life. Therefore, they should be replanted as quickly as possible after harvesting.

Be patient if you have chosen to grow the Sand Dollar Cactus through seeds because it usually takes years until they develop into flowering plants.

2. Using Offsets

An easier method of propagating the Sand Dollar Cactus is through its offsets. These are basically the small clumps that have similar features as the parent plant.

Begin by simply separating the offset with the mother plant by cutting the lateral stem connecting them near the roots. See to it that the cutting tool you are using has been sterilized properly to prevent bacterial or fungal infection in the open wound of the plant. Be careful when removing the offset, too, so its roots won’t be damaged.

Upon the separation of the offset from the mother plant, just repot the former in a container that’s partly filled with potting mix.

Maintenance

The Sand Dollar Cactus does not require too much water to survive. Thus, water it only when its soil is already dry to the touch, or when the color of its stem starts getting lighter. Also, ensure that the pot you are using has small holes at the bottom to serve as drainage of excess water to avoid soaking the roots of the succulent, which may lead to overwatering and rotting.

Reminder

As a responsible plant parent, make sure that you source your succulents, especially the endangered ones, from legal sellers so you won’t be contributing to their extinction. Here at Cal Farms, we only get our products from legitimate sources. Therefore, if you are looking to add more succulent plants into your collection, feel free to chat or Contact Us to send in your inquiries or orders.

conophytum succulent plants

Poaching Threaten Endangered Conophytum Succulent Plants

conophytum succulent plants

To date, there is a rising preference of households for succulent plants because they are easy to propagate and maintain, unlike regular plants that require too much effort to care for. As a result, the demand for succulents in the market was driven up, which has attracted poachers into the business. One particular genus of succulents that is being endangered by this illegal trade is the Conophytum.

The poaching problem of rare plants is no longer new as we receive news about them every now and then. Even before the pandemic, we have featured an article about the growing concern of Dudleya plants poaching in the Asian region. As more people turn to succulents, especially during the Covid-19 lockdowns making them a more common hobby, so are the people profiteering from their sale illegally.

A police officer inspects the confiscated boxes full of Conophytum succulent plants. (Source: New York Times)

According to the New York Times, a sting operation conducted by the Steinkopf police in the Western Cape of South Africa in July resulted in the confiscation of boxes containing thousands of endangered succulents from the Conophytum genus.

The name Conophytum is derived from the Latin word “conus” which means “cone”, and the Greek word “phytum” which means “plant”. Due to these succulents’ stone and cone-like appearances, they are also called Button Plants, Cone Plants, Living Pebbles, or Dumplings. This genus of succulents has over 100 species, including some that are classified as endangered.

Almost a third of all succulent species found in the market right now are native to South Africa. Most of the succulents featured here originate from the region, too, but have already adapted to the climates of their new homes. Despite the numerous varieties of plants in the marketplace, experts claim that this type of succulent is one of the most sought after with a huge demand coming from China and Korea.

Captain Karel Du Toit, the officer who organized the sting operation who also admitted being a fan of Conophytums, said that he used to spend most of his time handling cases of stolen livestock in his jurisdiction. In 2018, his focus has shifted to combating succulent poaching. He added that 80 percent of all the cases in his office now are related to this problem.

The source pointed out that succulents were once seen in Africa as plants for the poor. However, they have come into fashion worldwide in recent years, which made them a very lucrative venture. When the pandemic lockdowns started, succulent sellers saw an average rise of orders from 10 to 20 plants a day in 2019 going up to 200 plants daily in 2020.

Be a Part of the Solution

Being a responsible “plant parent” does not only involve making sure that your succulents grow healthy. You have to see to it that they are from authentic and legal sources as well. Here at Cal Farms, most of our products are homegrown and sourced from authentic and legitimate plant growers.

If you are on the lookout for succulents or plant-related products in the market that are currently not in our catalog, feel free to contact us or hit the “chat button” so a representative of the site can attend to your concern right away and help you find the products you are searching for.

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