Family: Cactaceae
Habitat: South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe
Cultivation: Not the easiest species to cultivate. Pay attention to heat and water. For more details, just read below.
Curiosity: Its name was chosen in honor of the Ortega family, who helped the botanist Tom Macdougall in the discovery of this genus.


Ortegocactus is a monospecific genus in the family of Cactaceae. It is an extremely rare and sought after cactus, consisting of a single species, globular and very small, with slow growth, but still extremely cute and unusual.

The only species in the genus is called O. macdougallii and it’s from a nearly inaccessible zone near Oaxaca, in Mexico, at an altitude between 1600 and 2100 meters, in the crevices of limestone rocks: an extremely severe and inhospitable environment.

Ortegocactus is an extremely small plant, forming little clusters of tiny, globose stems.

The stems are greyish-green and furrowed with tubercles, and reach a maximum diameter of 3-4 centimeters. Upon each tubercle lies an areole. The areoles are the typical buds of the family Cactaceae, from which the thorns develop. In Ortegocactus we have dimorphic areoles: this means that, in the same plants, there are two kinds of areoles at the same time. They’re both white, but one kind has felt and spines and lies at the top of the tubercles, while the other is hairy and located at the hollow between tubercles.

Spines are short, thin, bicolor (with a white base and a black, acuminate point). They are arranged in groups of 8 for each areoles, with a central, shorter, pointing upwards one and the other seven ones radially arranged.

From the top of the little stems, solitary, yellow flowers sprout. They’re funnel-shaped and have numerous petals. With their diameter wider than the one of the entire stem, they are really fleshy and cute and are one of the reasons why this cacti is so sought after by succulent collectors.

The flowers end up to form a dry fruit, globular, with a diameter of 5 millimeters, reddish, which contain small seeds (1 millimeter in length), brown, almost spherical, black.

Roots are fibrous and abundant: photos of eradicated plants show how the root system definitely overcome the cacti in size.


As mentioned above, there’s only one species of Ortegocactus: O. macdougallii. CHec our online shop to find it!


Ortegocactus is not so easy to cultivate, as it’s adapted to a really peculiar habitat, of which the conditions are difficult to create in cultivation. Here are our cultivation tips:

  • Put your Ortegocactus in bright spots, exposed to direct sunlight.
  • It prefers mild temperatures, about 20 °C, or in any case never lower than 10 °C, therefore it is advisable to shelter it in winter.
  • It needs little water, once every 10 days. In winter it is advisable to completely stop watering.
  • A harmless but not so attractive orange discoloration is common at the base of the stems. Apparently, it’s not due to disease, and is unavoidable. However, if it appears, check carefully the roots in search for signs of rottings.
  • A very draining substrate is an optimal solution, mixed with a small part of peat, which is preferably not too rich in minerals.
  • They do not need frequent fertilizations, it is enough to dilute fertilizer with watering once a year.
  • Repotting isn’t necessary obviously, as this is a dwarf species, extremely slow-growing.

Propagation is really slow from seeds and thus these cacti are frequently found grafted, also because grafted plants show a better resistance to root rotting.

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