Habitat: South America: northern Argentina, Bolivia
Cultivation: una doesn’t require any special care, compared to other cacti: put it in a half-shade position, water regularly and protect it from cold.
Curiosity: It takes its name from a plateau located between Argentina and Bolivia, the place of origin of this species.
The genus Puna consists of several species of cacti which, according to some classifications, are an autonomous genus, while according to others are part of the Opuntia genus. Sometimes some species are named as Tepphrocactus, as it happens for Puna subterranea (Tephrocactus subterraneus).
Nevertheless, they don’t look like Opuntias at all: whereas Opuntia have branches that develop in well-defined blades, the stem of these cacti forms strange, curious branches, shaped as globes or cylinders that cluster together in a disordered manner. This chaotic vegetative development expresses itselfcompletelly in the numerous crested and monstrous forms in Puna genus, sought after by many collectors and succulent lovers. Puna clavarioides is the perfect example of this attitude as many crested and monstrous forms of this species can be found on the market.
Their original habitat is the “Puna”, a region between Chile and Argentina, located in the southern part of the central Andes. It mainly consist in a arid plateau 4000 meters above sea level, part of the Atacama desert: the most arid region of the planet! The climate conditions here are severe: the temperature differenca between day and night is strong and rainfall is almost absent.
In general, the stem of Punas, pale green-grey, is subdivided into tubercles which are, however, usually not very conspicuous. These tubercles can be spherical, such as in Puna incauhasi, or irregular, forming kind of bizarre, deformed outgrowths, that can arrange in fashinating shapes. The areoles are not so conspicuous, absent in some species (such as in P. inchausi), or forming little, hairy tufts from which the spines come off, such as in P. subterranea. The spines are small, white or yellowish-reddish, and usually open in a radial pattern. They can vary in size and can be more or less dense: in P. clavarioides, for example, they give the impression of a wool hairy mantle covering the plant, though the stem remain always visible.
Punas can have various dimensions: on the market you’ll frequently find small ones, which don’t exceed a heigh of a few centimeters.
The flowers are about 5-6 cm in size and can have different colors: the most frequent one is pink. Blooming is actually a rare occurrence.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Below is a list of a few species of Puna. Check our online shop to find some of them!
- P. clavarioides
- P. clavarioides crested form
- P. bonnieae
- P. subterranea
- P. subterranea incahuasi
TIPS FOR GROWING
Here are our cultivation tips:
- Prefer a position of half shade for your Puna. It also fits in direct sun, but only if the plant is sheltered during the hottest hours of the day.
- The temperature must never fall below 5°C. It is therefore advisable to cover it during the winter or put it indoors.
- Regarding the irrigation, follow the standard rules for cacti: water regularly every 3 to 5 days in spring and summer (even more often than this if the plant is planted in the ground rather than in a pot) and then gradually reduce watering frequency in autumn and stop watering completely when winter arrives.
- Choose a mix of sand and peat that is very draining or, alternatively, a standard soil for cacti.
- During the vegetative period, fertilize once a month with a specific product for cacti.
The repotting necessities vary according to the species.
Punas are mainly propagated by cuttings: the irregularity with which the individual branches grow makes it easy to detach some of them to make excellent cuttings.