All for the love of spines

Last Updated 08 April 2014, 14:00 IST

They organise monthly meetings at the residence of one of the members, give demonstration on grafting, potting and seed sowing, and also talk about the problems they are facing in maintaining the proper growth of their cactus.

For these members of The Indian Society of Cacti and Succulents (ISOCS), cacti are like their babies.

It’s been more than 25 years since these members have been making all effort to follow the society’s objectives---encouragement, production and conservation of cacti and succulent plants. 

It was in 1984 when a dozen individuals who were keen to learn about cacti came together.
“Very little information was available to us about the cacti and succulents before the society was established. There were hardly any magazines or books that could specifically talk about the Indian variety of succulents,” says Dr Ram Gandhi, chairman of ISOCS. 

“Various theories given in books written by foreign authors did not work here,” he says, hinting at the reason behind establishing the society.  

“It was CP Mehra, a charted accountant by profession who set up the society, got it registered under the Societies Registration Act, arranged funding and above all brought together people who were passionate about cacti,” says Ram.

"Within three years after the society came into existence, the number of members increased to 100 and the society organised the first cacti and succulent show in 1988. “It was held at the Blind School, Zakir Hussain Marg,” he informs.
Like other cacti societies, ISOCS couldn’t have continued for so long if Ram had not made an effort to pump in the fuel for the society’s sustenance.
 His meeting with the chairman of the British Cactus and Succulent Society changed everything.

“He told me, India has good societies but they are like a mushroom, and none of them is a cactus, which could survive for long. These lines are still stuck in my mind. So, I want to work for the society as long as I can,”  he says.

Today, the society is affiliated to Cactus and Succulent Society Of America and is also associated with British Cactus and Succulent Society and Succulent societies of South Africa and Japan. 

The society has also established a research fund which gives grants to those members who wish to study various aspects of Indian succulents. 

“With assistance from this fund, members have made various field trips to Andaman and Nicobar Islands to study endemic succulents in habitat, identify species that are endangered and take steps  to conserve these by relocation and propagation,” he says.

(Published 08 April 2014, 14:00 IST)

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