Crested Eve’s Needle
Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata
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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
*I didn’t update the synonyms when this page was last updated on 11-11-21. POWO is working on their synonyms for several species and this species page wasn’t ready at the tme.
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.
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 11-11-21 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 146 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AND GROWING RECOMMENDATIONS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
LLIFLE (ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LIVING FORMS)
*CactiGuide was moving to a new server when this page was updated. I don’t know if this link will work when they are finished…