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Accepted Scientific Name: Austrocactus bertinii (Cels ex Hérincq) Britton & Rose
Cactaceae (Britton & Rose) 3: 44. 1922 [12 Oct 1922] Britton & Rose
A nice form with cream coloured spines.
Origin and Habitat: Austrocactus gracilis is mostly found in the provinces of Neuquen and Rio Negro in southern Argentina.
Habitat and ecology: This species if relatively common in dry areas.
Altitude range: Around 500-1.100 metres above sea level.
- Austrocactus gracilis Backeb.
Austrocactus bertinii (Cels ex Hérincq) Britton & Rose
Cactaceae (Britton & Rose) 3: 44. 1922 [12 Oct 1922]
- Austrocactus bertinii (Cels ex Hérincq) Britton & Rose
- Cereus bertinii Cels ex Hérincq
- Echinocactus bertinii (Cels ex Hérincq) A.Berger
- Malacocarpus bertinii (Cels ex Hérincq) Hosseus
- Notocactus bertinii (Cels ex Hérincq) W.T.Marshall
- Austrocactus dusenii Speg.
- Cereus dusenii F.A.C.Weber
- Austrocactus gracilis Backeb.
- Austrocactus patagonicus (F.A.C.Weber ex Speg.) Hosseus
Description: Austrocactus gracilis is one of the several synonyms of the extremely variable Austrocactus bertinii which show a huge number of forms found in the vast distribution area. These different forms distinguish especially for the presence of hooked spines and size of the stems, but all them show a continuous variation, so it is extremely difficult to establish the limit from one species to another. The so called “gracilis” has thinner stems of only 1-2 cm in diameter, mostly straight black or dull tan-grey central spines, lighter radials and flowers yellow tinged with salmon pink or pale yellow tinged with a pinkish glow. Some beautiful forms with white, creamy-yellow, or reddish spines has also been recorded. All this plants must be more properly classified as Austrocactus bertinii.
Habit: This plant forms a low column of straight or hooked spines, simple or branched at base with several stems.
Stems: 20-30(-50) cm tall and 1-2 cm in diameter (2-8 cm in Austrocactus bertinii), dark olive green slender cylindrical to cylindrical
Ribs: Up to 12 prominent and tuberculate.
Areoles: Circular yellowish-felted about 1 cm apart.
Central spines: 1 to 4, often straight, but also somewhat arched or hooked, stout, the lower and longest about 3-4 cm long, white, creamy-yellow, yellowish-brown, reddish, tannish-brown to almost black. Older spines are grey and provide effective camouflage in habitat.
Radial spines: 6-10 light coloured, up to 1,5 cm long.
Flowers: Diurnal, up to 10 cm in diameter and 6 cm long, pinkish or yellowish sometime with some violet, borne on the upper part of the areoles near the top of the plant. Stigma lobes numerous, red or purple. Stamens in two series the lower forming a ring around the style. Tube and ovary very spiny with woolly hairs and bristles.
Fruits: Nearly dry, globose, spiny with wool and bristles, flower remnants persistent.
Seeds: Broadly oval, flattened.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Austrocactus bertinii group
- Austrocactus bertinii (Cels ex Hérincq) Britton & Rose: has often hooked spines and pinkish or yellowish flowers. It is extremely variable. Distribution: Argentina (Chubut, La Pampa, Neuquén, Rio Negro, Santa Cruz); Chile (Aisén)
- Austrocactus gracilis Backeb.: has thinner stems of only 1-2 cm in diameter, mostly straight black central spines, lighter, forms with creamy-white or reddish spines has also known. Distribution: Neuquen and Rio Negro.
- Austrocactus patagonicus (F.A.C.Weber ex Speg.) Hosseus: has more spines and whitish or pale rose flowers with some violet. Distribution: Chubut and Negro Rivers in Patagonian Argentina.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Edward Anderson “The Cactus family” Timber Press, Incorporated, 2001
2) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey "The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass" Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug/2011
3) David R Hunt; Nigel P Taylor; Graham Charles; International Cactaceae Systematics Group. "The New Cactus Lexicon" dh books, 2006
Reddish spines type. Photo by: Carolina González
Cream spine type. Photo by: Carolina González
White spines type. Photo by: Carolina González
Austrocactus gracilis Photo by: Carolina González
Cultivation and Propagation: Austrocactus gracilis (=Austrocactus bertinii) are relatively easy to grow, providing they are kept cold, but dry during autumn and winter. However difficult to find high quality plants of this species in cultivation. They are very cold hardy cacti theoretically hardy to -18°C (or more) particularly when dry. These cacti are often grown grafted. Plants cultivated outdoors are drought tolerant and take full sun. They are wonderful companion plant for Echinocereus and Escobaria cacti species.
Soil: It need a very well-drained, coarse mineral soil. To prevent rottenness it is also advisable to surround its root neck by very rough sand or grit, this help a fast water drainage and an appropriate air circulation.
Repotting: Repot in the spring, when its roots become cramped. Generally, it should be repotted every other year in order to provide fresh soil. After repotting, do not water for a week or more.
Watering: It grows fairly fast in summer if provided with copious water but allows to dry thoroughly before watering again. During the winter quiescent period it must be strictly kept dry since it is very sensitive to any moisture excesses.
Fertilization: During the beautiful season it’s good to enrich the soil using a fertilizer rich in potassium and phosphorous, but poor in nitrogen, because this chemical element doesn’t help the development of succulent plants, making them too soft and full of water.
Exposition: It is essential to give full sun otherwise they will become atypical. If grown in full sun, the new growth will flower in spring and summer. (light shadow my be useful in the hottest summer days)
Frost Tolerance: Very frost hardy can withstand temperatures down to minus 18° C (or less). In cultivation overwinter in a cool place (at -5/-10°C) this is important for the flowers as well as for plants health. Without this cool winter period they normally wont get any buds.
Heat tolerance: In warmer climates it should be protected from excessive heat and too much sun sun in summer because it is not very heat tolerant.
Reproduction: Suckers or seed. Remove the basal suckers (if available) in spring or summer and let the cuttings dry for a few days before inserting in compost. Sow the seeds in spring in a well-aerated compost at a temperatures of 22-24°C . Stand the pots in water, moisten thoroughly and drain. Scatter and press lightly the seed onto the top of the compost. But do not cover the small seeds with compost. Secure a polythene bag around the pot or cover the container with glass or and place in a warm shaded place. If possible, germinate in a propagator. Some seedlings may appear within a week or 10 days others will take longer. At lower temperatures, germination usually takes considerably longer. Once germination has taken place, remove gradually the glass or plastic and move into a good light but not in direct sun. If the young plants are exposed to too much sun, or the compost dries out, they may stop growing and often turn red; once they stop, it is often difficult to persuade them to start growing again. Never let the pots dry out-but don't saturate them either. A sodden compost is as harmful as a dry one. For its sensitive roots this species is frequently grafted to avoid root problems.
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