Astrophytum digitostigma caput-medusae
A. caput-medusae is native to Mexico Northeast where the plant can spread up to 200 m of altitude.
A. caput-medusae is a rare succulente belonging to the Cactaceae botanical family. The cactus is solitary and the stem is very reduced. The stem is composed of thin cylindrical stem covered with white dots. At the base of the stem there are papyraceous bristles brownish in color. The terminal areoles are circular, white and spiniferous, the others are floriferous. The spines are rigid, whitish and darker at the apex. Blooming occurs in autumn and blossom are borne along the stem. The flowers are large, diurnal, yellow, with the base of the inner perianth segments orange coloured. The fruits are green and fleshy and bear big, cup-like, black seeds.
This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The plant needs a full light sun exposure but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light in the hottest periods. The plant does not like temperatures below 4°C so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. The soil should be mixed with pumice, clay and loam to allow the drainage and prevent the root rot, the plant is prone to it indeed. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly in Spring and Summer: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 7 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. If you want a faster and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for cacti; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
Propagation can be done by cutting, by seed or by grafting. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.
The name comes from the greek “Aster”, that means star, and it is given by the presence of several sections that form the pointy ends (from four to eight points) of these plants and that is particularly striking when seen from above.
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