The name “Copiapoa montana” has gone through many classification changes and there is still some confusion, as sometimes the species is still called “Copiapoa taltalensis” or Copiapoa cinerascens. Nevertheless, the name “Copiapoa montana” is nowadays accepted. Here below are the synonyms:
Copiapoa hypogaea var. montana
Copiapoa montana subsp. olivana
Copiapoa montana is native to Chile, where it inhabits arid areas at 200 to 600 meters above the sea level.
Copiapoa montana is a small cacti with globular stems branching from the ground level. At the beginning, it forms a solitary stem, but after a while it slowly branche to form clumps that may become large and can occupy the entire space of the pot. It is a geophytic plant, namely, a perennial plant that propagates by means of buds below the soil surface. This big root allows the plant to store nutrients and water and makes it able to survive the intense droughts of its native habitat, along with the water storage carried out by the succulent stem typical of any cacti. In Copiapoa montana, the stem is globular, flattened in young plants, and it later becomes columnar. It doesn’t exceed 20 centimeters in height and 10 in width. It is pale-olive green in colour but, if exposed to intense sunlight, it can take on a brown tinge. As in the majority of cacti species, the stem is divided into many ribs. In this species, there are 10 ribs, furtherly divided into prominent tubercles, almos 1 centimeter long. Areoles, which are the typical buds of cactaceae, that have developed the capacity to form spines instead of leaves, are rounded, small (3 to 10 millimeters in diameter), and covered in brownish-white hair. Spines, instead, are brownish-black to grey and can be straight or slightly curved. They are divided into radial spines, pointing in all directions laterally, 4 to 9 in number for each areola, and central spines (0 to 3), thicker and pointing outwards, 2 centimeters in lenght. Flowers are striking and are one of the main features that make this species so sought after among cacti collector. They develop at the top of the stem, from the dense wool that sometimes hides it. They are pale yellow in colour, slightly scented, and have numerous linear-lanceolate petals. The blooming season starts in early Summer and ends with the arrival of the Autumn. The plant stars to flower when it’s 2-3 years old. Seeds are black and very very small and have a good germination rate.
Copiapoa montana is not difficult to grow, though it’s definitely a slow-growe. Here below are our cultivation tips:
Put it in a bright spot, but not exposed to sunlight all the time: the hottest hours of the day should be avoided. Best options are early morning and late afternoon sunlight.
In cultivation conditions, we advise to keep it at minimum temperatures of 10ºC, as it doesn’t stand frosts: its minimum tolerated temperature . You might put it Duriing the cold season, keep its substrate completely dry and avoid atmospheric humidity: try to keep it in airy spots.
Water weekly during the Summer, always waiting that for the soil to dry up completely before each irrigation. In Spring and Autumn, water unfrequently but abundantly, whenever the substrate is copletely dry. In Winter, instead, any irrigation should be avoided.
Choose a well-drained soil, with an abundant mineral part.
Fertilize once a year during the growth season, with a specific product for cacti and succulents (high in Potassium and Phosphorus and poor in Nitrogen), diluting it in water at half the doses recommended on the label.
Repotting is rarely necessary as it stays very small. Choose deep pots to host it big root system.
The propagation of Copiapoa montana is usually carried out through seeds or cuttings. It’s also frequent to find plants grafted on more tough individuals, to enhance growth speed. Cuttings can instead be taken off the shoot in Spring and Summer, to be planted in cactus potting mix after the wound has dried up (a callous should form). Keep the substrate with the planted cuttings moist and at temperatures above 20ºC until they put roots. Seeds, instead, germinate in around a week at 20 to 27ºC in Spring. Put a glass or plastic sheet above the pot and remove it gradually after the plantlets start to germinate.
The name of the genus comes from the city of Copiapó, located in the Chilean region of Atacama where this genre has grown at the center of the development area.
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