Darwin Museum shows Star-Cacti

The Russian State Darwin Museum collected elite cacti of unusual form and colour. The Star-Cacti exhibition presents 200 thorny plants from collections of members of the Society on the Study of Cacti and Other Succulents (ROIKS).

The Society opened its regular exposition at the State Darwin Museum to commemorate ROIKS acting member, professor Nikolai Belashov.

A few families of plants can boast such a variety of forms and colours, like cacti, the State Darwin Museum officials told RIA Novosti. This is the merit of selectionists. They have been attracted by these strangers from Central America, which look uncomely at first sight. However, cacti won hearts of exotic lovers in Europe and became the subject of passion of many collectors.

The heroes of the current exhibition at the Darwin Museum are called astrophytums ('aster' means 'star' in Latin). This group of cacti is notable for the astonishing texture of proportional stems. If you look at the plants from above, they resemble radial stars in the black tropical sky. In addition, there is a 'sea' version of the 'star name'. Botanist Galeotti, who was the first to describe astrophytum in 1837, compared his discovery to a starfish.

Astrophytums come from Mexico's East, the State Darwin Museum officials said. They differ from other cacti not only by proportionality, but also by specific coating (specks) on the epidermis. As a rule, white specks create unusual all-over or tenuous patterns on stems.

Such rare beauty explains Latin names of astrophytums - Astrophytum ornatum ('decorated') or Astrophytum myriostrigma ("with thousand specks'). All in all, there are five species of astrophytums, each boasting great variety of forms and colours. All this splendour is represented at the exhibition.

However, the cacti, grown by Moscow collectors, are not so high, as those, which grow in Mexico and reach the height of 1.5 metres.

By the way, a cactus is a common plant in Mexico, the State Darwin Museum officials said. Sometimes it is the only source of life in Mexican deserts. The thorny wonder gives protection and food to animals and birds, nesting in its 'crown', and buildings materials, fuel and food to people. They eat raw, boiled and dried cacti, and bake, pickle and tin them. Cacti are used to cook syrup, pastila, treacle and wine. Indians used cactus seeds to make flour and to cure fractures and heart troubles.

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