Family: Cactaceae
Habitat: South America (in particular Chile)
Cultivation: Eriosyce is not an easy plant to cultivate compared to other cacti, mainly for its sensitivity to rottenness. For this reason it is sometimes grafted onto more robust cacti. It grows very slowly and blooms with difficulty. With a little attention, however, it can give a lot of satisfaction.
Curiosity: The name Eriosyce literally means “woolly fruit” and refers to the thick down that covers the fruits of this cactus. It comes from the Greek “Erion” (meaning wool) and “Sykos” meaning fruit.


The genus Eriosyce includes small solitary, spherical cacti equipped with taproots. Many species are also called with names belonging to other genera, such as Espostoa, Echinocactus, Echilenia and similar, according on the classification system adopted. Until 1872, in fact, these cacti were included in the Echinocereus genus.

Eriosyce are widespread in extremely arid and tough environments. In particular, they are native to an area extended from the coast of central Chile to southern Perù, in habitats ranging in altitude from the sea level to 3000 meters above, where they resist to high UV radiation levels and wide ranges of temperature, entering dormancy when the conditions become too harsh.

Eriosyce are small, solitary plants: they usually do not exceed 10 cm in height), with a very slow growth.

The stem is furrowed by tubercles and is dark green in color, with various shades from green to brown. From the areoles that sprout at the top of the tubercles, numerous strong spines grow, usually gray or black. In many species the spines cover the stem so densely that it’s not visible at all.

Eriosyce blooms with difficulty and only when it reaches maturity,at around 15 years of age: it is in fact a very long-lived cactus, especially in relation to other small ones. The flowers are funnel-shaped, yellowish or pink, often mottled and equipped with numerous, crowded petals; they appear in spring and last a few days. In many species they are so big that cover the plant completely.
When the petals fall off, they give way to large, red fruits, covered in the white fluff that gives the genus its name.
Fruits host black little seeds which sometimes sprout when still on the plant!


Here are the main species of cacti belonging to this genus.

  • E. aerocarpa
  • E. atroviridis
  • E. aurata
  • E. auseliana
  • E. bulbocalyx
  • E. cachytayensis
  • E. ceratistes
  • E. chilensis
  • E. clavata
  • E. combarbalensis
  • E. copiapoides
  • E. crispa
  • E. curvispina
  • E. echinus
  • E. engleri
  • E. eriocephala
  • E. esmeraldana
  • E. grandiflorens spinosior
  • E. hoge
  • E. jorgensis
  • E. krausii
  • E. kunzei
  • E. las pircas
  • E. laui
  • E. lindley
  • E. murtado
  • E. napina
  • E. occulta
  • E. odieri
  • E. paucicostata
  • E. robusta
  • E. rodentiophila
  • E. sandillon
  • E. senilis
  • E. strusiana
  • E. subgibbosa
  • E. tulamuen
  • E. villosa


Eriosyce is not an easy plant to cultivate compared to other cacti because it is very prone to rot. For this reason, it is sometimes grafted onto more robust cacti.
It grows very slowly and blooms with difficulty. With a little attention, however, it can become a satisfactory houseplant, to be kept both indoors or outdoors if you live in warm areas. Here are our cultivation tips:

  • It needs plenty of light, possibly direct, especially in the summer months.
  • The temperature must remain above 5°C, even in winter. However, they can survive brief frosts as long as the soil is maintained completely dry, if it’s not too cold. A large temperature range between day and night is appreciated.
  • If possible, expose your Eriosyce to drafts. A humid environment can ease rotting.
  • Water every 3-4 days in spring and summer and less and less with the arrival of autumn, until suspenting completely any irrigation during the winter months. Wait always for the soil to dry up completely before any irrigation.
  • We advise to use a standard soil for cacti, light and very draining.
  • Fertilize at the beginning of the month during the growing season.
  • Given the small size and slow growth, there is no frequent need to repot. Choose rather deep pots to easily contain the deep taproot.

Eriosyce are propagated exclusively by seed. Seeds must be kept fresh and buried in a humid sandy substrate at a temperature of about 25°C.

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