Kings of Cacti - Part 1

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 Heba Moeen 6 Comments

The King of Cactus, Fahim Siddiqui Surrounded by His Treasure!

I am at a stage in life where when I turn on Netflix, I either end up reading a book instead after 5 minutes, or fall asleep. And when I watch a movie, I watch it in batches, comprising of 3 to 4 nights. For people like me, a crash course of nature is more relevant and thankfully, Karachi is blessed with gems around who are collectors and preservers of nature. No leisure activity can be as fulfilling as spending time with nature, amidst the concrete jungle we now live in.

Last week, some of us friends visited an avid cacti collector, Mr. Fahim Siddiqui (American Cacti) who has been collecting cacti plants since 1978, he first started with buying a few plants from a nursery that was closing down and gave a new beginning to his cacti ancestors. While he is an engineer by profession, Mr. Fahim spends his spare time, nourishing his treasure. 

We admired the alluring and absolutely stunning cacti collection, I couldn’t help but visit each aisle at least thrice, observing those prickly little happy plants, flaunting their glory on a hot summer day. The various types of thorns as you will see are quite spectacular and the cacti flowers are out of this world! They have a unique attraction unlike any other plant or flower.

When you visit such as place, make sure you aren't wearing loose or flowing out-of-every-where clothes as those would be an issue for these plants; you never know when a thorny, prickly cactus would cling on to your clothes while getting dislodged from its place. It's okay if you get pricked because it won't kill you but it's absolutely not okay to have a plant disturbed and pulled out of its place. 

I inadvertently follow a practice of wearing the wrong type of trousers and was wearing bell bottoms that day because of which I had to be very cautious and prudently walk past the plants so that I don't disturb them or unconsciously pull them off, thus becoming a kleptomaniac. This turned out to be a suggestion for Fahim sb to add to the rules for his visitors: 'Loose clothing not allowed' ... obviously, these plants are very precious and demand time and effort for maintenance and their destruction cannot be afforded as a result of clothing of mass destruction. So yes, if you plan to visit, be advised for appropriate dressing.

And how can you not LOVE these plants?!?!? You just cannot not love these beauties ... Below are some pictures of our Cactus King's collection (pictures taken post permission - we are nice people and follow the rules of photography ... *honest*).

Brace yourselves! Here we go ...

Honey bees enjoying pollen and nectar from a cactus flower

Mammallaria Alamensis 
Some fruit - not sure if it's edible though ... the birds would know
Quite some Melocactus Bahiensis (round ones with discs on top) and Horse Cripplers - scientific name: Echinocactus Texensis (the thorny ones on the top row)

Cacti plants are watered on a weekly basis and sometimes succulents can be watered twice a week depending how hot the weather is becoming, it just depends on when the soil has got dry or how rapidly it’s becoming dry to be precise. A simple trick as suggested by Mr. Fahim is inserting a pencil for ascertaining the moisture level; if it comes out dry then the plant needs watering and if it's still moist. there is still time until it dries out. waiting for the next watering spell. Once a week, full watering is required, water sufficiently until it drains out of the holes at the bottom of the plant pot. 

People are usually of the view that plastic pots don't work here and only mud pots will let the plant survive, else it would completely be a case of Darwinism. Plastic pots work just fine, all you need is sufficient daylight (sometimes direct sun ruins some succulents such as aloe vera) and appropriate watering. Just remember, that the number 1 cause of killing cacti is over-watering, although I'm guilty of having some killed because of under watering or perhaps saline water mixing into our main water supply, that is, whenever we get it, though its scarce and available only on alternate days for hardly 10 minutes ... such is the water situation in Karachi, my friends. Please conserve water and avoid wasting it.

Another tip that we were given was about re-potting plants, if you are re-potting a cactus, make sure you place it in a shady area for around 21 days otherwise if re-potted and immediately kept under direct sunlight, the plant could succumb to Darwinism in such a case as well. Based on my experience, cacti plants are very sensitive and requires vigilance, you just have to ensure the right amount of water and yes cactus food too. You can get the UK brand called Itax (available at Lotia Nursery - Gizri) or NPK 20-20-20 and follow the simple steps written on the container - it's one teaspoon per litre of water, itax is used in even smaller quantities, that is, a pinch of powder, it comes with a measuring spoon in the container so you're sorted. Ever wondered why some cacti look more fresh than others? This is the trick.

When you look at the seemingly belligerent thorns don't you ever feel that there is at least one person in your life who you would want that he/she sit on such a plant? Well cacti plants are very precious and expensive so just let it be.

Moving on to some more wonderful cacti from American Cati's collection:

Grafted plants upfront

Let me show one of the plants I got from them earlier, from the flower show in February this year, the flowers bloomed into what can be referred to as the gardener's fantasy.

Gymnocalycium Damsii

So folks this was all from this King of Cacti - Fahim Siddiqui, the next post will be about another king from the same city, whose immense love for cacti and orchid plants is also worth talking about.

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  1. Thats life ... nice chapter indeed !

  2. An informative piece. Amazing to know about a cactus plant lover. This write up shed light on cactus plants from a different angle. A worth reading piece

    1. Thank you for dropping by. It's difficult not to love cacti plants. :)