Botanical and Cultural Adventures

Botanical and Cultural Adventures

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hechtia podantha - Cadereyta, Queretaro

Hechtia podantha habitat
Hechtia podantha growing in lichen covered rocks in Queretaro, MX
Hechtia podantha is a widespread and variable species and is in the 'podantha complex'.  Recently there has been a more thorough study of the species of the complex in the states of Oaxaca and Puebla, but the plants found throughout some of the states to the north (in particular the states of Hidalgo and Queretaro) have many plants that probably need a closer look.

Here are some Hechtia podantha from another part of the state of Queretaro, Mexico that help show the variation even within relatively close populations.

Like most Hechtias (and bromeliads in general), the plants in this complex are not only variable, but also quite plastic.  Not plastic in the synthetic, petroleum based material sense, but rather in the sense that they are malleable and will change based on what conditions they are growing under. More light, less water, and less nutrients they will grow 'tighter', smaller, and give some stressed color. Grown in more shade with more water and nutrients the plants will be green, larger, and have a more lax habit.

Long, old remnant bases showing age of plants.
This species forms the inflorescence from the center of the plant (the apical meristem) like most species in the genus.  generally forms large, extensive clumps of a single clone. Older clones will also show the old bases of the plants left over after the plant has bloomed and produced its offsets. After a very long time, you can see long, zig-zagging series as seen in the picture to the right.  These zig-zags makes a sort of terraces.

Hechtia podantha red margins

One of the more common color patterns found on many species of Hechtia are solid red leaf margins, giving an almost variegated appearance.  These lines only show when the plants are stressed by the lack of water during the dry season and the hot, intense sun.  During the rainy season or when growing in a more shaded or nutrient rich areas the plants won't show these red margins. These are also variable from plant to plant.  Some plants in the same population will not show this color pattern.

Hechtia podantha Queretaro habitat

Extremely tough, not much will be able to kill a mature plant. Even the goats will generally not eat these well-armed plants.  Sometimes they are burned or hacked with a machete, but they will usually bounce back like the plants on the right and below.

Hechtia podantha with fire damage

Hechtia podantha Queretaro habitat

And the last picture will show the plants and the overall landscape and surrounding area.  Mixed in with the Dasylirions and cacti, the Hechtia podantha plants make quite a nice natural rock garden.