Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata-Crested Eve’s Needle

Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata on 8-23-13, #178-67.

I am currently updating this page. Hopefully, it will be finished on 1-8-21. 

Crested Eve’s Needle

Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata

oss-troh-sil-in-droh-PUN-tee-uh  sub-yoo-LAH-tuh  kris-TAY-tuh


Austrocylindropuntia subulata

Synonyms of Austrocylindropuntia subulata (7) (Updated 1-8-21): Cylindropuntia subulata (Muehlenpf.) F.M.Knuth, Opuntia ellemetiana Miq., Opuntia segethii Phil., Opuntia subulata (Muehlenpf.) Engelm., Pereskia affinis Meinsh., Pereskia subulata Muehlenpf., Pereskiopsis subulata (Muehlenpf.) Britton & Rose

Austrocylindropuntia subulata (Muehlenpf.) Backeb. is the correct and accepted name for this species of cactus. It was described as such by Curt Backeberg in Cactaceae in 1939*. It was first named Pereskia subulata by Philipp August Friedrich Muehlenpfordt and described in Allgemeine Gartenzeitung in 1845. Then the name was changed to Opuntia subulata by Georg (George) Engelmann and described in Gardener’s Chronicle in 1883.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata hort. is a “man-made” or “natural” cristate form of Austrocylindropuntia subulata.

*That information is from the IPNI (International Plant Names Index). Some databases say 1941. Tropicos says the description was published in Die Cactaceae: Handbuch der Kakteenkunde in 1942.

The genus, Austrocylindropuntia Backeb., was named and described as such by Curt Backeberg in Blatter für Kakteenforschung (Bulletin of Cactus Research) in 1938.

Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 7 species in the Austrocylindropuntia (as of 1-8-21 when I am updating this page). It is a member of the plant family Cactaceae with 144 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made.


Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata on 8-25-12, #116-41

I brought my Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata (Crested Eve’s Needle) home from Lowe’s in Greenville, Mississippi on 8-25-12 when I was living in Leland. I liked the way it was growing in kind of a circular shape and has the small leaves on top. The label said it was an Opuntia subulata cristata.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata at 5 1/2″ tall x 6 1/2″ wide on 11-23-12, #131-34.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata is native to the high elevations of Ecuador and Peru in South America. They are a large tree-like species that can grow up to 13 feet tall and have round cylindrical joints that can grow up to 2’ tall and 2 1/2 inches thick. Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata is a form that is a nursery created cultivar but can also occur in nature. Some information suggests the cristate forms can occur due to an injury to the plant at a young age such as when insects eat the growing tip. This causes the cells at the tip of the branch to multiply at a much faster rate which creates the cristate form.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata on 2-17-13, #139-47.

The photo above and below were taken at the mansion in Mississippi during our first winter together. The leaves have been drying up because was the plant’s dormant period.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata on 2-17-13, #139-48.

Other than their appearance, their cultural requirements are very similar to the “normal” Austrocylindropuntia subulata. The species as a whole are a semi-hardy cactus that does NOT like temps below 25° F (-4°C). They prefer their night temperatures not to fall below 40° although the species can tolerate some light frost. Personally, I would not recommend the cristate or monstrose forms to be outside much under 40° F. I grow mine in pots so I can easily move them inside. Even though some cactus can survive a frost, some species may scar from it. Well, I guess I am kind of paranoid when it comes to cold weather since I have never lived anywhere it doesn’t frost or freeze during the winter.


Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata on 4-9-13, #142-23.

I bought this plant with me when I moved back to the family farm in west-central Missouri in February 2013. I put most of the plants in the basement for the remainder of the winter. You would be surprised, as I was, at how well they did in a cool, poorly lit environment.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata on 6-1-13, #151-52.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata are summer growers and need regular watering during that time but the soil should dry between watering. Do not water during the winter unless you notice the plant beginning to shrivel, then only water a little

Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata on 7-30-13, #165-45.

Since these plants have developed differently than the species, they may be better suited in light to part shade rather than full sun.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata on 9-17-13, #188-46.

I really enjoyed this plant and never had a lick of problems with it. It was always happy and went in and out of dormancy as normal. BUT, unfortunately, during the 2013-2014 winter, it started to rot and eventually died. I haven’t found a suitable replacement yet…

Common Name: Crested Eve’s Needle
Family: Cactaceae
Origin: The cristata form is a nursery produced cultivar, but the species is a native of Ecuador and Peru in South America
Zones: USDA Zones 9a to 10b (20 to 40 °F/−6.7 °to +4.4 °C).
Height: 12-20” (one website said 4’ tall x 10’ wide!)
*Light: Full sun to part shade (depending on your climate)
***Water: Provide regular water during the summer months and very little during the winter.
**Soil: Very well-draining. Good quality potting soil amended with pumice (50/50) or additional pumice and chicken grit (2-1-1).
Repotting: Some information says they like to be “underpotted” while another says to provide adequate space for their “large root system”… Seriously, a cactus with a large root system?

*During the summer, I keep most of my cactus on the back deck where they receive full sun. During the winter most cactus aren’t picky about the light because they are basically dormant. For several winters, mine were in front of the east-facing sliding door in the dining room so they didn’t get much light but they did great. I built a new shelf for the bedroom so now they are in front of a west-facing window. Most of the succulents are on a shelf in a south-facing window in a cool bedroom but a few are in my bedroom.

**When it comes to potting soil, finding the “sweet spot” is not exactly that easy when materials are limited. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts (and experts) do not recommend using peat-based commercial mixes but what choice is there for most of us. They say to use a loam-based mix… Hmmm… Our soil is loam, so do I just use dirt? Well, no because “dirt” is heavy and you need a “light” material. There is A LOT of cactus and succulent recipes online and some get pretty elaborate. Many say to use sand as an ingredient, but if you do that, it needs to be very coarse, like builders sand, because “ordinary” sand, like for sandboxes, is too fine and it clogs up the air space between the coarser ingredients. For MANY years I used 2 parts Miracle Grow or Schultz Potting amended with an additional 1 part of perlite and 1 part chicken grit. Schultz doesn’t seem to have as many large pieces of bark. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts recommended using pumice instead of perlite and grit so I checked it out… The “guy” at General Pumice (online) recommended using a 50/50 mix of potting soil and pumice. General Pumice has 3 different sizes to choose from depending on the size of the pot. SO, in 2018 I bought a bag of 1/8″ and mixed it 50/50 with Miracle Grow Potting Soil. I liked it pretty well. Then in 2020, since most of the cactus were in larger pots, I ordered the 1/4″ size. Pumice has a lot of benefits over perlite and has nutrients that are added to the soil when watering. Pumice is also heavier so it stays mixed in the soil instead of “floating” to the top. Still, there is the issue of the mix getting very hard once you stop watering the plants during the winter when you stop watering. I think this is because of the peat in the potting soil… SO, instead of re-potting the cactus and succulents in the spring, I started doing it during the fall and winter so their soil would be loose. Since you don’t water as frequently during the winter if at all, the timed-release fertilizer does not activate. I have not tried coir, but I am looking into it… 

You have to sort of mimic the soil where species grow in their native habitat. For that, you almost have to go see for yourself… Typically, they grow in fairly rocky soil.

***I water my cactus and succulents on a regular basis during the summer but barely ever in the winter (maybe a little in January) until close to time to take them back outside. 

You can read my Cactus Talk & Update and Cactus & Succulent Tips to get my opinion about growing cactus and succulents.

When you bring your new plants home from the store, you need to check their roots and the soil to see if they are wet. If so, you may want to re-pot it right away. It is advisable to re-pot them in a better potting soil more suitable for cactus and succulents.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.


8 comments on “Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata-Crested Eve’s Needle

  1. Cicik Wood says:

    I saw this plant at Carribean Gardens Market in Melbourne, Australia. So unusual looking, so I have to buy it and have been looking for the name ever since.
    Thank goodness I come across this article while looking for Euphorbia flanaganii cristata
    Now I know the correct name for it. One very happy succulents addict.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. teresita says:



    • Hello Teresita! I am glad my page helped you identify your plant and I hope you can find another one. They are truly unique. It is important that you be careful not to overwater, especially during the winter months when dormant or they will rot. That’s what I think happened to mine. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a suitable replacement. Good luck and thanks for the comment!


  3. CoraReyes says:

    I bought opuntia cristina last week at Lowes.It gives me an interesting look because of the appearance- very rare cactus.I was able to read your page and now I know what to and how to take care of this plant. Thank you so much for sharing it and hoping you can found a new one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Cora! I am really glad you found one. They are great and very interesting to grow. I haven’t found an “f. cristata” yet but I did find a regular Austrocylindropuntia subulata at a local greenhouse. I am glad you found this page useful and I wish you the best of luck. Thanks for visiting, take care, and thanks for the comment!


  4. Amanda says:

    I have had one of these in the ground for the past year in my zone 8b/9a Las Vegas garden. It is in full sun and doing extremely well, I cover it the 5 or 6 nights a year we go below freezing, not really sure if that’s necessary, but I don’t want to risk it. It has probably doubled in size since I purchased it. One of my favorites in my yard. I now also have the opuntia “Gumby” which is doing amazing as well.


    • Hello Amanda! They are really neat plants and I would like to have another one similar to the one I had. It would e great to live in a zone where I didn’t have to bring the plants inside for the winter. I looked Opuntia ‘Gumby’ up and it looks like a really neat plant as well. I would love to see photos if you can send them to Thanks for visiting and thanks for the comment!


Please leave a comment. I would like to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.