|Taken to Cactus meeting 18/04/2014|
This is probably one of the easier plants to grow which comes under the umbrella of "Rare Mexican Cacti". Having said that, I did kill my original plant off back in the 1980s and this plant is the replacement I got from Luke Cook about two years ago. It is considered to be most closely related to similar Turbinicarpus species such as T. laui and T. swobodae. Since it was first described in the 1930s (as Thelocactus lophophoroides) this plant has been moved from genus to genus, due to the unclear nature of the relationships within this desirable group of plants. From Thelocactus, it has been placed by various authors into Strombocactus, Toumeya, Neolloydia, and Pediocactus before finally settling into Turbinicarpus!
This species, like so many of the more desirable small cacti, is quite endangered, having been over collected in the past as well as being threatened to this day by habitat loss. It is found only in Mexico both in hot desert areas and dry lowland grasslands, many of which are badly overgrazed, removing the shade and protection which young plants rely on to develop to maturity.
The plant I am presenting here is fully mature, having flowered for me in both 2012 and 2013. Unlike many cacti this species flowers in the autumn, after the first rains come. It has not yet done so this year, but it did have a hard time this summer and may be a little behind. In 2013 it had three flowers open at once, each of which was nearly as big as the plant itself. The maximum size for the above ground portion of the plant in cultivation is considered to be around 10cm across, although 5 to 6 cm is more usual. Older plants will look somewhat flattened as they rarely exceed 5cm in height and can even shrink down further if kept very dry. The real action is in the large fleshy tap roots which can be 4 to 5 times the size of the plant you can see. These roots can be the main problem in growing the plant as they are quite delicate and really don't cope well with excessive watering. This is a plant best kept dry if temperature are low and it should, even in summer, be allowed to dry out completely between waterings.
As the specific epithet lophophoroides indicates, this plant is named for its resemblance to Lophophora williamsii. This resemblance becomes more pronounced as the plant gets bigger as it will develop a thick woolly crown with repeated flowering and age, while the spines become less obvious as the plant body gets larger. The plant normally grows as a single head but branching specimens do exist and can make attractive small clumps over time.