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

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Austrocylindropuntia subulata

Synonyms of Austrocylindropuntia subulata (4) (Updated 12-4-22): Cylindropuntia subulata (Muehlenpf.) F.M.Knuth (1930), Opuntia subulata (Muehlenpf.) Engelm. (1883), Pereskia subulata Muehlenpf. (1845), Pereskiopsis subulata (Muehlenpf.) Britton & Rose (1916)
Synonyms of Austrocylindropuntia subulata subsp. exaltata (A.Berger) D.R.Hunt (4) (Updated on 12-4-22 from POWO):
 Austrocylindropuntia exaltata (A.Berger) Backeb. (1942), Cylindropuntia exaltata (A.Berger) Backeb. (1936), Opuntia exaltata A.Berger (1912), Opuntia subulata var. exaltata (A.Berger) G.D.Rowley (1972 publ. 1974)
Synonyms of Austrocylindropuntia subulata subsp. subulata (3) (Updated on 12-4-22 from POWO): Opuntia ellemeetiana Miq. (1859), Opuntia segethii Phil. (1879), Pereskia affinis Meinsh. (1859)

Austrocylindropuntia subulata (Muehlenpf.) Backeb. is the accepted name for this species of cactus. It was described as such by Curt Backeberg in Cactaceae in 1941. 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.

Accepted Infraspecific Names (2) (Updated on 12-4-22 from POWO): Austrocylindropuntia subulata subsp. exaltata (A.Berger) D.R.Hunt (2002), *Austrocylindropuntia subulata subsp. subulata (autonym). *When an infraspecific taxon is named, an autonym (“type-specimen”) is automatically generated whose description is closest to the (original) species. All have their own list of synonyms…

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

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

As of 12-4-22 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 7 species in the Austrocylindropuntia. It is a member of the plant family Cactaceae with 150 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.


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 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? 

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.



12 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!


  5. Shon says:

    Are you still lookout for austrocylindropuntia subulata cristata?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Caroline says:

    I came across this blog post just today and wanted to thank you for sharing your experience with this plant. I also wanted to say that it may have met the end of its lifespan; this is being said for others that may have experienced a sudden loss of this specimen. It’s gorgeous. I have one and have enjoyed it. My preference is growing crested plants which can often take a while to grow into their size by the time we get them. We don’t know how old they are by that time therefore their days may be numbered. I feel as though this is what happened with a large Crested senecio I had as well as several euphorbias and other succulents.

    I’m starting to understand why people will cut up the plants after so many years and start rooting the cuttings. It’s their way of keeping one part of the mother plant and starting the process over – something I wish I had done before the other plants expired. I may have to do that this week…

    Your plant was beautiful. I know it’s been years however, I’m sad and sorry to hear you no longer have it.

    I learned from your post. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Caroline! Thanks for your great comment! It is sad but true that some plants reach their limit. This was truly an impressive plant. I haven’t tried any crested plants, but I do really like the monstrose forms. I haven’t attempted taking cuttings of any succulents except for those with stems and leaves. I am very tempted to do it with the Euphorbia mammillaris. GEEZ! It is turning brown, I think from “trunking.” I just learned about them doing that recently. Doesn’t hurt the plant, but it looks weird. The plant my cutting came from was likely fairly old, and the process had already started… Growing cacti and succulents is definitely a continual learning process. Take care and thanks again for your great comment.


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