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Espostoa lanata (Peruvian Old Man Cactus)


Scientific Name

Espostoa lanata (Kunth) Britton & Rose

Common Names

Peruvian Old Man Cactus, Peruvian Snowball Cactus, Peruvian Old Man, Cotton Ball Cactus, New Old-man Cactus, Snowball Cactus, Snowball Old Man


Cactus lanatus (basionym), Cephalocereus dautwitzii, Cereus dautwitzii, Cereus lanatus, Cereus sericatus, Cleistocactus lanatus, Espostoa dautwitzii, Espostoa sericata, Oreocereus lanatus, Pilocereus dautwitzii, Pilocereus lanatus

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Trichocereeae
Genus: Espostoa


Espostoa lanata is a columnar, densely hairy cactus, covered by a warm, woolly coat and well adapted to high altitudes. It looks like Cephalocereus senilis. The main difference is the presence of sharp spines on E. lanata. It is wide spread in its habitat and quite variable in size and spines and for this reason it has received several names. It is up to 8 inches in diameter and up to 23 feet (7 m) tall. There are 18 to 25 ribs. The ribs and the sharp are mainly hidden by tissue woolly. It branches only after several years. It flowers at night from a lateral cephalium after several years. It has nocturnal flowers, up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, white to purple and appear in late spring to early summer.

Espostoa lanata (Peruvian Old Man Cactus)

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USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Several species of Espostoa, are especially popular in cultivation due to their fuzzy white hairy appearance. The plants are typically sold by large commercial growers as up to 12 inch (30 cm) stems. However, being large columnar species, these plants do not grow nearly as vigorously in pots as they would in the ground. Plants tend to quickly fill the pots becoming pot bound and then growth slows to a crawl. As such, these plants rarely, if ever reach maturity meaning they don't produce the cephalium and subsequently do not flower. On the other hand, those in warmer climates that can plant the species directly in the ground may indeed have plants that form a nice grouping of stems that will eventually flower.

Like all cacti, Espostoa requires a sunny location and well-drained soil. But in summer, it appreciates fertilizer and wetter conditions. In winter, it needs a rest, but the temperature must not drop below 54 °F (12 °C)…- See more at: How to Grow and care for Espostoa


Its original habitat is from southern Ecuador to the northern Peru on the west slopes of the Andes mountains.


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