Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata-Crested Eve’s Needle

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

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 (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.

*Some databases say 1941. Tropicos says the description was published in Die Cactaceae: Handbuch der Kakteenkunde in 1942.

The correct scientific name for this form is Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata hort.


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

I bought my Crested Eve’s Needle on 8-25-12 at Lowe’s in Greenville, Mississippi. 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 even though that name changed in 1942…


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 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 it is the plants 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 under 40. 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.



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 mid-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.

They 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

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 7-30-13, #165-45.

Common Name: Crested Eve’s Needle
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Opuntioideae
Tribe: Austrocylindropuntieae
Origin: The cristata form is a nursery produced cultivar, but the species is a native of Ecuador and Peru in South America
Zones: 9a to 10b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 40 °F (+4.4 °C).
Height: 12-20” (one website said 4’ tall x 10’ wide!)
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Provide regular water during the summer months and very little during the winter.
Soil: Fast-draining soil mix with additional gravel or grit.
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?


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 replacement yet…

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!


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