Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Strange New Plants - Learning as you go.

Astrophytum caput-medusae

In late June of this year I discussed planting 10 seeds of the strange cactus, Astrophytum caput-medusae.  This cactus has a very reduced stem, you really can't see it, a thick, swollen root, and long, thin, snake-like tubercles arising from the stem.  My June 23, 2014 blog entry give more background on this strange cactus and chronicles the six seedlings that resulted from a March 2013 sowing.   The seedlings grew well and the June 23, 2014 blog entry shows one of the seedlings with a flower.  At that point the next step was the removal of the six seedlings from their birth pot and transplanting into a larger, or individual pots. However, because this is a relatively newly discovered cactus (2001), there is very little information on cultivation.  Thus, growing Astrophytum caput-medusae will be a Learning As You Go adventure.

Here are the six seedlings showing their thick, enlarged roots and ready for planting.  



  1. I think this is the most unusual plant I've ever seen, name vs. looks. I'd never think it's a cactus if I hadn't seen the flower! Stunning.

    You surely mean they were sown in March 2013 though :D At first I thought, what? Flower on a 3-month-old? But even one year and 3 month is very early and shows your skill with these plants. It couldn't wait to thank you for your care with a flower. *___*

    Wonderful plants! I'd love to grow them one day :) With such a root, is it common to raise it above ground? I'd think the caudex fans among us would try to do that for sure.

  2. Hello Rika. I surely did mean March 2013. Thanks for catching that. As far as I know, no one is purposely positioning the swollen root above the soil. I guess the strange form and attractive flowers are the main ornamental features for most growers. I think getting one of the seedlings to flower early is more about luck than skill, as I am still learning how to grow these weird plants. They don't seem to like the soil to become very dry and thus I am watering on a regular basis. I have recently moved four of the seedlings outside where they will receive filtered sunlight. In Mexico they are usually found growing beneath shrubs and out of the direct sun. It's fun, albeit a little scary, to learn how to grow a new plants. Of course, you know all about that. :)

    1. Learning how to grow a new plant is a big part of the fun! :)
      Hm yes, I can imagine the "twigs" would lose succulence much quicker than the fat round-ish cacti thus needing more water and shade. I'm sure yours will do great outside. It's not Mexico :)
      You brought them this far! They will be fine, no worries. Please do update us on their progress.

  3. I had not realised the plant had this odd swollen root. The one on the right seems to have an offshoot a bit like a jerusalem artichoke. Will new stems form from this?