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How to Grow and Care for an Artichoke Cactus (Obregonia denegrii)


Obregonia, the Artichoke Cactus, is a genus of cacti with a single species, Obregonia denegrii. It is found only within the Valley of Jaumave in the state of Tamaulipas in eastern Mexico. The Artichoke Cactus is found in semi-desert and shrubland at elevations of around 1970 – 2300 feet (600 – 700 m) above sea level. It is often found on rocky, gentle slopes in limestone gravel.

This small cactus is just visible above the surface of the ground, as the heads emerge only slightly from the larger underground root system. The distinctive appearance of the head, which has given rise to the common name of "Artichoke Cactus", is formed by the spirally arranged, erect tubercles. At the tip of each, there are 3 – 4 flexible spines. White flowers emerge from the centre of the whorl of tubercles, and these develop into whitish-brown fruits if cross-pollination is successful.

This striking cactus produces flowers during the summer months. Fruits develop if the flowers are successfully fertilised through cross-pollination. The fruits dry and then split open, allowing the seeds to be washed away (and therefore dispersed) by rain.

The Nahuatl Indians call the plant Peyotl, and it is said to have hallucinogenic alkaloids. It is one of the closest living relatives of the genus Lophophora.

Growing Conditions

Light: Requires ful sun to develop good compact growth.
Water: Use water sparingly from March till October and keep perfectly dry in winter.
Temperature: It is hardy to 25 °F (-4° C) for a short period.
Soil: Very well drained soil with little organic material (peat, humus).

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Almost exclusively by seeds. But the seedlings are tiny and very slow growing and at first they take one or two years to reach the diameter of 0.1 – 0.2 inch (3 – 5 mm).

Grower's Tips

This slow growing cactus isn't always the easiest species to cultivate, but can enlarge relatively fast when well grown. It is often seen as a grafted plant but grows very well on its own roots too. Needs a very well drained soil with little organic material (peat, humus). Requires full sun to develop good compact growth and watering should be rather infrequent, to keep the plant flat shaped and not become excessively elongated and unnatural in appearance. Use water sparingly from March till October and keep perfectly dry in winter, or when night temperatures remain below 50° F (10° C). It is hardy to 25 °F (-4° C) for a short period. In the rest period no high atmospheric humidity. Ensure a good ventilation.


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