Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sand Dollar Cactus

Astrophytum asterias  -  A New Favorite Cactus

I have a general, or mixed, collection of succulents.  There are a few favorite groups;  lithops, haworthias, and sempervivums, among the other succulents, and astrophytums among the cacti.  My favorite astrophytum is A. asterias, the sand dollar or sea urchin cactus.  I like the overall form, low and squat, and the interesting patterns of the little white clumps of hairs (trichomes) on the plant body.  

I began my collection of A. asterias in 2007 when I purchased four plants.  Two were from a commercial mail order nursery and two from a member of the National Capital Cactus and Succulent Society, the C&S  society of Washington, D.C.  http://www.washington-dc.cactus-society.org/

Those four plants flowered, were pollinated, and I harvested fruits and seeds, and began growing my own seedlings.  The seedlings were flowering in three years and producing more seed.  The plant shown above is one of the two plants purchased from the commercial nursery.   I have also purchased seed of a special type of A. asterias called 'Super Kabuto' (shown below).  This type is heavily marked with the white trichomes.

Now that I have a mix of different types of A. asterias , the seed produced from cross pollination always results in a myriad of different looking seedlings.  Some are typical A. asterias, mostly green with a few white trichomes, but others have no trichomes, and yet others are completely covered.  I'll be showing more of these in future because Astrophytum asterias  makes up a sizable portion of my collection of cacti.  Then there is Astrophytum caput-medusae, the strangest astrophytum of all.  But that's another story.


  1. Astrophytum is one spectacular genus. I have a few seeds, but I'm too nervous to grow them, I'll have to try next spring.

  2. Hi Marla,
    When you are ready to try astrophytums, let me know. I have a LOT of seed of the main species and I would be glad to send you seed. I have recently planted seed, and have 7 seedlings, of the Astrophytum caput-medusae, which is very weird looking with long snake-like stems. It is an interesting and attractive genus.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks ellie T
      Yep, I've fallen in love with the astrophytums. My seedlings of the newest one, Astrophytum caput-medusae are growing well, but slow. It's the weirdest one of the genus.