Habitat: Montainous areas of Chile, Argentina, Bolivia
Cultivation: It requires plenty of light, deep pots filled with a well-draining, mineral substrate, and low temperatures in winter to produce numerous and healthy vegetative buds and flower during the following spring.
Curiosity: Its name come from the Greek words opsis, “similar to”, referring to its resemblance to another genus called Maihuenia.
Maihueniopsis is a genus of the family Cactaceae, including 18 species of prostrate, little cacti, very cute and sought after by succulent collectors.
Maihueniopsis are widespread from Peru to Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. Their habitat are located at high altitudes (2000-3000 meters above the sea level), where UV radiation is strong and temperatures change drastically from freezing cold to much warmer (around 15ºC) during the day. They grow on rocky soil, usually exposed to direct, strong sunlight but sometimes in the shade of other bushes. In winter, they can survive covered by 1-2 meters of snow!
Maihueniopsis are small plants, forming little succulent, quite spiny maps, with many globose, green, rounded stems, sometimes lumpy due to barely hinted tubercles, on the top of which there are the areoles. They don’t exceed some centimeters in height. The areoles are cacti’s buds, from which the thorns are developed. In Maihueniopsis, areoles are whitish and slightly hairy (hairs are more or less dense, soft or bristle-like depending on the species however, in the majority of them, they are soft and short. Spines are also generally short and soft, looking like some kind of short hairs. They aren’t, in fact, erect, neither sharp, and they are radially arranged around the areole, forming cute, untidy, radiate tufts. In some species, on the contrary, such as M. darwinii, spines are long and really sharp, so much that they can be dangerous and the plant should be kept away from children and pets.
In some species, the stems aren’t globose nor oval, but take on irregular shapes, with a club-shaped bigger stem at the base from which smaller, finger-shaped branches come off. A typical example of this irregular form can be found in M clavarioides.
Flowers are solitary, borne at the top of the globular stems, and are very showy and cute. They are rather big, if compared to the dimensions of the single stems: they reach a diameter of 3-4 centimeters, while the single stems measure around 2 centimeters. These measures are a general indication and actually can be different depending on the species. The colours of the flowers also depend on the species: they range from orange, to white, to pink, to reddish.
Their roots are often taproots or either enlarged and tuberous, enabling Maihueniopsis to store water and nutrients and survive the harsh condition of their native habitat.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Here below are some species of Maihueniopsis:
- M. archiconoidea
- M. atacamensis
- M. bolivianum
- M. bonnieae
- M. camachoi
- M. colorea
- M. conoidea
- M. darwinii
- M. domeykoensis
- M. glochidiata
- M. glomerata
- M. grandiflora
- M. hickenii
- M. leoncito
- M. leptochlada
- M. mandragora
- M. minuta
- M. molinensis
- M. nigrispina
- M. ovallei
- M. ovata
- M. pentlandii
- M. platyacantha
- M. rahmeri
- M. tarapacana
- M. wagenknechtii
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TIPS FOR GROWING
Here below are our tips for cultivation of Maihueniopsis:
- Exposure to full sun is highly recommended, as these mountain cacti are used to receive plenty of light during the day in their natural habitat.
- They’re tolerant to light frost, if kept dry. Moreover, they need cold temperatures in winter to go through a healthy blossoming and to develop abundant buds during the following vegetative season.
- Maihueniopsis are subsceptible to overwatering, so remember to wait always for the soil to dry up completely before each irrigation. However, they need enough water during the rowing season, in Summer. In Winter, instead, any irrigation should be avoided. These odd, little cacti do not mind being buried under a thick layer of mulch, cloth, or snow for the entire winter, but it is not necessary.
- Choose a well draining substrate, with an abundant part in minerals.
- They need a dry environment, with air movements or drafts.
- Choose deep, large pots to host the thick, deep taproots of these plants. Repotting necessities are different according to the species: once a year should be sufficient. In general, when you notice that the map is extended horizontally until covering the entire surface of the pot you can proceed with the repotting.
- Fertilization is not necessary as this plant is used to poor soils.
- Pay attention to the spines: in some species, such as M. darwinii, they are very long and sharp. Keep the plant away from pets and children and be careful while handling it.
Maihueniopsis are usually propagated using cuttings and are frequently grafted onto more resistant cacti.