Family: Cactaceae
Habitat: Chile, in extremely dry conditions.
Cultivation: Full exposure to sunlight, well-draining substrate, pay attention to watering.
Curiosity: Thelocephala means, literally, “nipple head” (from “Thelos”, nipple in Greek), and probably refers to the thick fluff that covers the fruit of this cactus.


Thelocephala is a genus of plants belonging to the family Cactaceae. This genus has confused generations of botanists: in fact, it is not yet known if Thelocephala can be considered a genus in its own right. The standard classification actually considers it as a synonym of the genus Eryoside. The names of the various species of Thelocephala are, in fact, actually synonyms of Eryosice species names.

Thelocephala, or Eriosyce, are small, spherical, solitary cacti with taproot root. Many of the species of this genus can be found called with names of other genera in addition to Eryosice, such as Espostoa, Echinocactus, Echilenia, etc. …

In general, these cacti inhabit extremely arid environments, are small (maximum 10 cm in height, in general), and grow very slowly.

The stem is furrowed by tubercles and is dark in color, with various shades from green to brown. From the areoles that sprout on top of the tubercle grow numerous robust thorns, usually gray or black.
These plants are very long-lived compared to other small cacti, but don’t blossom so easily, also because they become able to bloom only when they reach maturity, at about 15 years of age. Their rare flowers are light, yellowish or pink, often mottled; they sprout in spring last for a few days.
When petals fall down, they begin to form a large, red fruit, covered with the white fluff that gives the genus its name.

The name Eriosyce, in fact, literally means “woolly fruit” and refers to the thick fluff that covers the fruits of this cactus. It comes from the Greek “Erion” ( wool) and “Sykos” (fruit). Thelocephala instead means, literally, “nipple head” (from “Thelos”, nipple in Greek), and probably refers to the thick fluff that covers the fruit of this cactus.


Here below are a few species of Thelocephala. Check out our online store to see if they’re available and to find out new ones!

  • Thelocephala tenebrica
  • Thelocephala odieri


Thelocephala or Eryosice are not easy plants to grow compared to other cacti, because they easily rot. For this reason, they are sometimes grafted onto more tough cacti.
They grow very slowly and flower rarely. If you pay attention to certain details, however, they can give you a lot of satisfaction. Here are our cultivation tips:

  • They need plenty of light, possibly direct, even and especially in the summer months.
  • They need to stay above 5°C, even in winter. However, they survive short frosts if the soil is maintained completely dry, as long as the temperature drops below zero. A strong temperature variation between day and night is appreciated.
  • Water every 3-4 days in spring and summer, then, in Autumn, reduce the the watering frequency until suspending completely the irrigation during Winter months. Between one watering and the other the soil must left to dry out.
  • As a substrate, you can use a standard soil for cacti, light and very well-drained.
  • If possible, fertilize once a month during the growing season.
  • Due to its small size and slow growth, there is no frequent need for repotting. Choose rather deep pots to easily contain the deep taproot.

Propagation is carried out exclusively by seed, which must be kept cool and buried in a humid sandy substrate at a temperature of about 25°C.

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