by Bruce Brethauer
Parodia magnifica is an attractive species with globular to barrel-shaped, blue green stems which may also bear a light dusting of a whitish, waxy bloom. The stems bear 11 to 15 acute ribs which produce areoles and rusty-golden bristle-like spines along their edges. Most authorities indicate that the stems will reach a diameter to about 6 inches, but I have seen plants in cultivation which have exceeded this size slightly. 2 inch satiny, butter yellow flowers are intermittently produced at the summit of the stem through the summer months. This species is native to the Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil.
Long-time growers are probably more familiar with its former classifications as Notocactus magnificus or Eriocactus magnificus, but in recent classifications, these genera have been combined into Parodia - and if taxonomists decide to incorporate the genus of Frailea into this mix, then we may very well be seeing this species (as well as all Parodia) being re-classified as Fraileas,
Small plants with 2 to 3 inch stems are periodically available in the cactus selections offered at many local nurseries (albeit, without identification). Even at this young age, this is an attractive species, but venerable old plants truly deserve their specific epithet "magnifica" (the pictured plant is over 30 years old: it was photographed with a younger plant (estimated age of 4 to 5 years, with a 3.5 inch diameter stem for comparison). While my resources indicate that plants in the wild tend to remain solitary, only producing a few offsets with age, a good number of the plants in cultivation tend to produce more offsets, and tend to offset at a younger age. Whether this tendency is the result of inadvertent hybridization, or merely through the selection of individuals and clones which tended to produce multiple stems is hard to say.
This is an easy and undemanding plant; it does well with my basic recommendations for growing cacti and other succulents. Healthy plants grown in very good light are reliable bloomers - in my experience in Central Ohio, they flower intermittently through the summer months, but growers in other regions of the country indicate that their plants flower in spring. It benefits from a good cool winter dormancy, tolerating surprisingly cool temperatures for a cactus from Brazil - some authorities indicate that it will survive brief exposure to temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit - but ideally, during dormancy, temperatures should probably be maintained above 40 degrees. I do not water my plants at all through the winter months, and begin to move them outdoors as soon as temperatures reliably remain above freezing. One source indicates that plants may have a tendency to produce a corky surface on its stems if the plants are maintained at cool temperatures and poor air circulation, but aside from this, this plant has very few drawbacks, and will tolerate a wide range of growing conditions.
The appearance of this plant is reminiscent of the golden barrel cactus, but in my opinion, it is more suitable as a houseplant - as Notocactus magnifica will tolerate somewhat lower light levels, and even very large plants will always produce bristle-like spines - far less formidable than those of the golden barrel cactus. Ultimately, this is a smaller plant, and will never achieve the proportions of the golden barrel cactus. It flowers at a relatively young age, and grows slowly enough that it will not quickly outgrow its allotted space. It really has a great charm and even at a small size, has that classic barrel-cactus look that conjures up associations of desert landscapes.
Grigsby Cactus Gardens, and Miles to Go