Aporophyllum X "Helena"   (Obtention : Clive Innes)

When I started my epiphytic cacti collection, I bought Aporocactus flagelliformis, a very classic plant, in a garden-center.

I checked the etymology of the word ‘Aporocactus’, I read that the word derived from a Greek origin: ‘aporia’ which means impenetrable. I think that this is due to the knotted and prickly form of the stems which doesn't make you feel like touching them.

Some time later, I was visiting a German producer, and I was surprised at
the sight of a plant whose stems had the same cylindrical and ribbed form
as those of Aporocactus flagelliformis. But its blooms had a vivid red colour, and above all, they were two to three times larger looking than those of Epicactus (hybrid cacti with flat stems like those of Epiphyllum ; Epicactus are also called Phyllocactus).

(N.B.: On my website, I call Epicactus : "hybrid Epiphyllum".)

The name which was on the label was : Aporophyllum X "Oakleigh Conquest".

So I believed for some time, that the Aporophyllum (also named in English : Rat tail cacti) were hybrids between Aporocacti (aporo) and Epiphyllum (phyllum).

We will see that reality is much more complex than this hasty simplification.

The complexity of the problem started to appear to me when I bought more Aporophyllum ; then, on the labels, I saw that the generic names Aporoheliocereus or Aporoselenicereus were also used.

I only fully grasped the question when I read the reference article written by Eckhard Meier and published in 1994 in the English language review "Haseltonia".

Eckhard Meier, very kindly authorized me to use his text to write this article. My article is widely inspired by Eckhard Meier's text and I thank him here very warmly. Without his text, these pages would never have existed.



The origin of Aporophyllum (one should say : X Aporophyllum because it's only made up of hybrids) is much more recent than that of Epicacti (hybrid cacti which have flattened stems looking like leaves, as it occurs with botanic Epiphyllum stems, Christmas cacti (or Schlumbergera, or Zygocactus) or Easter cacti (or Rhipsalidopsis, or Hatiora).

First Aporophyllum were marketed for the first time in the United States, near Los Angeles, in 1955, by the famous cacti specialist and producer : Harry Johnson. They were hybrids between Aporocacti and Epicacti. Currently, it isn't the case for all Aporophyllum any more.

NB : Little did Harry Johnson know what turmoil his creation, "Aporophyllum", would raise. According to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (Utrecht, 1983), the nothogeneric name "X Aporophyllum" Johnson is not legitimate, for two main reasons. First, it conflicts with Article H.6.3., which states that for a bigeneric hybrid genus to be valid, both parental lineages must be known, which is not the case here. As noted above, one of the generic components of "X Aporophyllum" is "Epicactus", hybrids whose ancestry is generally uncertain (one can only say that they are multiple hybrids derived from 4-6 genera. Second, Johnson published the new name in his nursery catalog, which according to Article 29.4 of the ICBN (1988) has been inadmissible since January 1, 1953.

From here on, I will use the term Aporophyllum for hybrid cacti which have cylindric stems looking like those of Aporocacti, and whose blooms also look like Aporocacti's blooms, but, often, with a bigger size.

With this widened meaning of the word, we include Johnson's first hybrids , but we generalize with intrageneric or multigeneric hybrids.

In the family tree of an Aporophyllum, we always find one or several Aporocactus, but it's possible to find also one or more following botanic genera : Disocactus, Epiphyllum, Heliocereus, Nopalxochia, Selenicereus, Weberocereus. And of course, we also have hybrids between all these plants. The tree branches become extremely complicated...

In a separated page and as an example, I give the complete family tree of Aporophyllum ‘Discovery’ (obtained by the famous botanist, horticulturist and British hybridizer : Clive Innes). This Aporophyllum obtention lasted five generations. We find in the tree five different botanical genera, without mentioning Epicacti !!!

Other Aporophyllum have simpler family trees; for instance :

Aporophyllum which are crossings between Aporocactus and Heliocereus are also called Aporoheliocereus.

Aporophyllum which are crossings between Aporocactus and Selenicereus are also called : Aporoselenicereus.

Aporophyllum which are crossings between Aporocactus and Disocactus are also called : Aporodisocactus or Disapora.



Aporophyllum blooms have many advantages in comparision to those of their Aporocactus ancestors, which have very beautiful blooms though.

First of all, if we except the small blooming hybrids, (which have the charm of a relative rarity), Aporophyllum have flowers of the size of Epicacti with medium or large flowers (scale of the Epicacti producers).

Then, the color range is wider, and several shades can be seen on the same flower. The four species of Aporocactus have dark to bright pink or red flowers. Among Aporophyllum, we find following colours : white (still very rare), pink, orangey colour, vermilion, magenta, and all the pastel shades you can imagine by mixing all these colours.

White colour is rare (three cultivars known in 1994: ‘Bintang Sinar’, ‘Iceberg’, and ‘Snowbird’, which, alas, aren't in my collection) I here address all my readers : "Wanted !" The explanation of this fact is that the red pigmentation of Aporocactus is a dominating character , and thus, it strongly comes out when hybridizing.

The colour which is still missing is pure yellow, which certainly could be obtained, especially starting from an Aporophyllum which contains the yellow pigment already, for example the cultivar : "Discoverey". But all this research requires growing space, much time, much patience and tenacity, and last but not least, much money. All these requirements to obtain a plant which is currently less prized on the market that an Epicactus.

Regarding research time, the famous hybridor Curt Knebel writes, in his book "Phyllocactus", that a minimum of 6 to 8 years is necessary between pollination of two Epicacti and the first blooming of the hybrids resulting from the crossing. Thus this is the time necessary for one generation only and the creation of Aporophyllum "Discovery" required five !



If we compare to Epicacti, Aporophyllum have more advantages : the plants have a smaller size and they need less growing requirements.

I grow my Aporophyllum in the same compost as all my epiphytic cacti, i.e. an acid and well drained mixture of heath-mould, siliceous sand and perlite or vermiculite. But Aporophyllum also tolerate more mineral and less acid mixtures (I didn't personally check these points, but I bought very healthy Aporophyllum and they were growing in such soils).

Aporophyllum like a sunny location and the direct sun doesn't burn them.

They cope very well with cold temperatures : I think that a 5°C minimal temperature in winter is very well appropriate to them ; in my greenhouse, they get slightly higher temperatures, because they are mixed with my more cold-sensitive plants.

Aporophyllum withstand very well the dryness of their soil during the winter period, from October to February, when the first floral buds appear. It is then necessary to start to sprinkle, and a fertilizer contribution strengthens flowering (fertilizer NPK with little N and much P and K).

Aporophyllum are not very sensitive to diseases and parasites ; but it's necessary to be careful about red spider mites.



After several years, the stems may lignify and then the root system weakens. So, to have a new healthy plant, it's possible to cut non lignified stems and to make cuttings with them. I always keep the old plant, and sometimes it produces new young and vigorous stems.

The propagation by cutting is the ideal method of propagating Aporophyllum.