One of Ralph Martin's main hobbies is growing cacti and other succulents. Why don't you get interested in these unusual plants?
Plants and journals for sale and exchange
Wants: Ralph has a wants list of cacti and succulents online; he also collects books and journals on cacti and succulents, and has a wants list for books and journals too. If you have any of these items for sale, please get in touch by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
British Cactus and Succulent Society
Ralph is a member of the British Cactus and Succulent Society. The BCSS has many local branches, and very active forums for discussing cacti and succulents online. They also have a series of useful cultivation leaflets.
Field collector and field number data
Ralph has set up a field number data service whereby you can enter a field collector's number for a plant, e.g. "KK 2005", and details of the plant, where it was collected, and other notes will be returned to you.
There is also a related field collector data service whereby you can enter an acronym, e.g. "KK", for a cactus and succulent field collector, and the collector's name and other notes are returned to you. This service knows about more collectors than the field number service; the notes may help you to interpret the results provided by the field number service. The field collector's acronym data service allows you to do the opposite of the above: you can enter the collector's name and the corresponding acronym(s) are returned to you.
There is also a field number finder service where you may enter a species of cactus or succulent e.g. "Rebutia heliosa", and find field numbers corresponding to that species.
Finally, if you want to search for plants found at a given locality e.g. "Sierra Medina", please use the field number locality query service instead.
I am always grateful to receive further data for this service. The best way to prepare your data is in the form of a spreadsheet (Excel or tab-separated text) with one record per line. The columns should be as follows: field number, genus, species, variety (or ssp., fma., etc), locality (place, province, country), altitude, date, notes (any other useful observations, e.g. yellow flowers). The data should be emailed to me at email@example.com.
Cactus and succulent compost, and pH
There is always a lot of discussion concerning the 'right' compost to use for cacti and succulent plants. One important issue in this area is what pH to aim for: in other words, should the soil be acid or alkaline? Some growers suggest adding limestone for example, while others suggest the opposite. With their permission, here is an informative article by Elton Roberts and Malcolm Burleigh on this issue.
Cactus felt scale
Cactus felt scale is a pest which relatively recently made its way to the UK, and which is not described in most amateur books on growing cacti and succulents. Information on this pest is provided here, courtesy of Chris Malumphy of Fera Science Ltd.
Other cactus and succulent info on the Web
The Cactus and Succulent Plant Mall is managed by Tony Mace, and has a comprehensive set of links to cactus and succulent information of all sorts, including details of various national and specialist societies, nurseries, individual home pages and other useful information of all kinds. I'm not going to try to compete by putting any of those links here!
Here are some plants from my collection. The photos were taken by my wife, Xiaoqing Li (李小青).