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Espostoa melanostele – Peruvian Old Lady


Scientific Name

Espostoa lanata (Kunth) Britton & Rose

Common Names

Peruvian Old Lady


Cephalocereus melanostele (basionym), Binghamia melanostele, Cephalocereus melanostele, Cereus melanostele, Espostoa haagei, Haageocereus melanostele, Pseudoespostoa melanostele

Scientific Classification

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


Espostoa melanostele in its natural habitat it slowly grows up to 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, but raised in a pot it will reach up to 10 inches (25 cm) in 10 years. Even at a very young age, the cactus displays an abundance of long woolly spines that cover and hide the body of the plant including sharp white, yellow or red spines up to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long. As the cactus matures all the spines become darker. The stems are erect and columnar and branch at the base to form a clumps. Flowers are rare but are white, up to 2 inches (5 cm) wide, and nocturnal. Berry-like fruits are produced with edible dull black seeds inside.

Espostoa melanostele - Peruvian Old Lady

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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


Native to southern Ecuador and Peru.


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