Astrophytum ornatum (DC.) Britton & Rose
Bishop's Cap, Monk's Hood, Monk's Hood Cactus, Star Plant
This species is endemic to the Central Plateau of Mexico.
Astrophytum ornatum is a cactus with a solitary greyish-green to dark-green stem with 5 to 10 ribs, clusters of spines along the ribs, and numerous white woolly flakes for protection from the sun. The stem is globular when young but become somewhat columnar with age. It grows up to 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and 1 foot (30 cm) in diameter, and it is the largest and tallest species of the genus. The ribs are straight or occasionally spiraled. The spines are needle-like, yellow at first, later brown, and finally grey. Each areole bears 5 to 11 radial spines and one longer central spine. The radial spines are up to 8 inches (2 cm) long. Flowers are canary yellow, up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long, and appear at the apex of the stem in summer.
How to Grow and Care
Astrophytums are not vigorous plants, requiring a lot of patience to reach their full potential. Keep regularly watering and feeding them during the growing season and repot annually to give them space to develop. They need a temperate, dry winter and ensure they do not overwater to avoid rotting their roots. They will develop marvelous flowers if given sufficient care once they reach maturity. Watch out for common cactus pests like aphids and scale, as well—these can often be taken care of by a good eco-friendly pesticide or simply wiped away with a cloth.
Repot regularly to help them develop. Astrophytums should be repotted at the beginning of the growing season for best results, allowing them to grow into the impressive specimens for which the genus is known. Protect your hands before repotting due to their stiff spikes, lift the plant out all at once, and then replace it in a larger pot and backfill with soil.
See more at How to Grow and Care for Astrophytum.
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