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The genus Rhipsalis is noteworthy for several reasons – not least because it includes the only cactus species that is found growing wild outside the Americas (R. baccifera). The genus includes species with a wide variety of growth habits and stem shapes. Many species, including R. pilocarpa, are epiphytes, i.e. grow in trees, rooted in moss and debris in the clefts of the trunks.

0114 Rhipsalis pilocarpa 1

The stems in R. pilocarpa are cylindrical, and thin – generally about 3mm across. They are unusual for Rhipsalis species in that the stems have a covering of white hairs. The stems branch at the tips, at intervals. Flower buds also develop at the tips, and flowers appear over the winter and early spring. Like most other Rhipsalis species, the individual flowers are white, and relatively small – only a few cm across – but can be produced in large numbers.

In cultivation, as with most epiphytes, the plant is best grown in an open, organic based compost. It appreciates humidity, rather than a lot of water; in fact it is best kept on the dry side, though not allowed to dry out completely. It grows well in diffuse light or dappled shade but – possibly because of the covering of hairs, which will protect the plant – it is more tolerant of bright light than many other species. The plant is tolerant, too, of cold conditions over the winter.

0114 Rhipsalis pilocarpa 2

To propagate the plant, take sections of stem as cuttings. Stems sometimes produce aerial roots anyway; cuttings that already have roots will normally develop more quickly. Putting the cuttings in a plastic bag can help to keep the humidity high, without overwatering, until the roots are sufficiently developed.

Mark Preston

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