The most prominent distinctive characters of Melocactus reside in the cap or cluster of spines, wool, and flowers on the summit of the stem. Thirty species are included in the genus, their stems ranging from 1 ft. to 3 ft. in height, the ridges straight, and, as a rule, large; whilst all have stiff stout spines in clusters about 1 in. apart. The small flowers are succeeded by bright red, cherry-like berries, containing numerous black, shining seeds. The distribution of the species is over the hottest parts of some of the West Indian Islands and a few places in Central and South America.
Cultivation.—The cultivation of the several kinds known in gardens is as follows: A tropical temperature all the year round, with as much sunlight as possible, and a moist atmosphere for about three months during summer, when growth is most active. Very little soil is required, as the largest stems have comparatively few roots; indeed, imported stems have been known to live, and even make growth, nearly two years without pushing a single root; but, of course, this was abnormal, and was no other than the using-up of the nourishment stored up in the stem before it was removed from its native home. M. Louis de Smet, a well-known Ghent nurseryman, who grows a fine collection of Cactuses, stated that he had kept M. communis a long time in robust health and growth by feeding it with a very weak solution of salt. Tried at Kew, this treatment did not appear to make any perceptible difference; but, bearing in mind that the Turk’s-Cap Cactus is found in great abundance within the reach of sea spray, in some of the West Indian Islands, there seems much reason in M. de Smet’s treatment. The same gentleman informed us that he had a specimen of this Cactus bearing no less than thirteen heads. There is, at the time of writing, a specimen at Kew bearing four fine heads. Large imported plants are very rarely, established; and even when established, they do not thrive long, owing to the fact that, after the cap has commenced to form, no further stem-growth is made. Young plants grow very slowly, a plant 3 ft. across taking, according to Sir W. Hooker, from 200 to 300 years to reach that size. It has been stated that grafting is a good plan to adopt for the Melocactus, Mr. F. T. Palmer, in “Culture des Cactees”, recommending the following treatment for M. communis: Take a Cereus peruvianus of about the same diameter as that of the base of the Melocactus, cut off the head of the former, but not so low as to come upon the