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The Encyclopedia of Cacti


Austrocylindropuntia vestita
(Syn: Opuntia vestita)


Austrocylindropuntia vestita
It forms slim columns densely cloaked with thin long white hairs.
Every one has it, grows and flowers well.

Description: It is usually a slender columnar white and very furry cactus from high altitude. The standard plants form  branch both basally and near the top of the stems.
Stems: Cylindrical 2-3 cm in diameter covered densely with long white hairs. The stems can eventually grow to almost 60 cm tall.
Leaves: Thin subulate, caducous (but lasting from spring to autumn if the plant is kept regularly watered)
Spines: Few thin, up to 1 cm long and white. The plant has also abundant long, fine and rubbery hairs which completely cover the branches.
A. vestita is not a reliable bloomer. When flowering finally occurs, the flowers will be a beautiful deep red or violet up to 2-2,5cm . The hairiness of the pericarpel is mostly as dense as that of the stems, merely the spination remains less. The flowers are developed always at the top of the stems.

Notes: The genus Austrocylindropuntia comprises eleven species and was created by Curt Backeberg in 1938 for the cylindrical Opuntias of South-America. The cylindrical Opuntias of North-America was instead placed in the genus Cylindropuntia.
Austrocylindropuntia can easily be distinguished from Cylindropuntia: Cylindropuntia spines have papery sheaths, Austrocylindropuntia spines lack them. Austrocylindropuntia have cylindrical stems that grow indeterminately, not like many other Opuntias with stems that grow in a single season. Fresh stems have noticeable leaves that soon fall off. Austrocylindropuntias form low cushions o bushes up to 3 of 5m. The seeds are different too.

Cultivation: This particular species needs regular watering when soil is dry during the growing seasonis but it is prone to root rot, so prudent watering is necessary. Keep dry in winter. I comes from high altitude and do not like hot, stuffy summers, it is best to put them in airy places with ample airflow.  It requires a very drained and mineral potting mix and a full sun or slightly shady exposure. Protect from severe frost.

Propagation: Seeds are seldom available and extremely difficult to germinate.  Best reproduced by cutting that  produce roots  easily. The crested variety, which is more delicate, multiplies more easily using grafting.


Photo of conspecific taxa, varieties, forms and cultivars of Austrocylindropuntia vestita.

Family: Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Scientific name:  
Austrocylindropuntia vestita (Salm-Dyck) Backeberg  1939

Origin:  Bolivia

Conservation status: Listed in CITES appendix 2.

Common Names include: "Cotton Coral Cactus", "Cotton Pole", "Old Man Opuntia"

Etymology: The species name "vestita" refers to the plants' vestments, its clothing of white hairs that turns into dens colonies what appears to be patches of snow remembering the high mountain peaks that surround - on all sides - the habitat of this plant.


  • Austrocylindropuntia chuquisacana (Cárdenas) F.Ritter, 1980
  • Austrocylindropuntia teres (Cels ex F.A.C.Weber) Backeberg, 1944
  • Cylindropuntia teres (Cels ex F.A.C.Weber) Backeberg, 1935
  • Cylindropuntia vestita (Salm-Dyck) Backeberg, 1936
  • Maihueniopsis vestita (Salm-Dyck) R.Kiesling, 1998
  • Opuntia chuquisacana Cárdenas, 1950
  • Opuntia heteromorpha Philippi, 1891
  • Opuntia teres Cels ex F.A.C.Weber, 1898
  • Opuntia vestita Salm-Dyck, 1845
  • Tephrocactus heteromorphus (Philippi) Backeberg,


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