The Artichoke Cactus

The Artichoke Cactus
The name aptly describes the appearance of this unusual cactus.

Native to Brazil, the artichoke cactus doesn’t really look like a cactus at all. If it weren’t for the small clusters of short-lived spines on the tips of the tubercles, you might mistake this for a succulent.

The Latin name of this plant was chosen to honor the president of Mexico.

Basically, the artichoke cactus is a globular to rounded plant with a flattened top. It is gray-green to deep green. The body consists of rather angular tubercles or scales that taper to a point at the top and curve downwards. The points can be sharp to the touch. These stiff scales resemble succulent leaves, and are arranged in neat spirals.

Except for the spines on the tips of the tubercles or scales, this is essentially spineless. The spines that are present drop when the plant reaches maturity.

When the plants are mature, the individual tubercles can be an inch across. The entire plant can reach over four inches across at maturity.

From the very top of the center, there is a cephalium or a felted woolly area from which the blossoms arise. The daisy shaped blossoms open on short tubes. These blooms grow to about an inch in diameter. Though they can occur singly, they’re often crowded together in a tight cluster. The blossoms open in mid-summer. This plant has a thick tap root.

Assuming you can provide the proper temperature and full sun, the artichoke cactus is easy to grow. Otherwise it can be challenging.

The plants are propagated mostly by seed, which are very tiny. Attempts to propagate by grafting aren’t always successful. This species doesn’t produce offsets on a regular basis.

This plant tends to be very slow growing. Keep it in a warm sunny place, particularly during the growing season from spring through the fall. It can tolerate some light shade for part of the day during the summer months, but during the winter will require full sun. During the winter, it can tolerate much cooler temperatures. This prefers a sandy potting soil. Keep the soil on the dry side during the growing season. Reduce water somewhat during the winter. But don’t let it shrivel.

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