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  Astrophytum caput-medusae CACTUS ART

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of Cacti and Succulents.

Astrophytum caput-medusae


Description: Solitary or rarely clustered up to 19 of eight.
Stem: Very reduced, shortly cylindrical, lacking ribs, with papyraceous  bristles covering the collar and the stem  apex, the bristles probably originate from the basal rest of the tubercles, the colour of the bristles of tubercles is coffee whit reddish tones, the stem bristle of plants growing in habitat rarely exceed the ground level.
Tubercles: Cylindrical or occasionally triangular when young, of cartilaginous consistency, smooth, could appear similar in aspect to leaves, up to 190 mm in length and of 2 to 5 mm wide, some times the adaxial portion of the base of the tubercle  is cuneate Epidermis  verrucose, glaucous-green, covered by stigmas (squamiform peltate trichomes) of a greyish-white colour, covering almost the totality of the epidermis towards the base of the the tubercle.
Areoles : Dimorphic; the spiniferous one are terminals, circular or elliptical, with white wool; the floriferous one are located in the adaxial subterminal portion, separated from the spiniferous from 18 to 46 mm elliptical, with white wool, but noticeably larger than the spiniferous areoles.
Spines: 0 up to 4, generally persisting in old tubercles, of 1 to 3 mm in length, semi-erect, rigid, the base is whitish  with a dark-coffee apex.
Roots: Primary root fusiform, fleshy; secondary roots fibrous. The root is of the same dimension or slightly smaller of the aerial part.
Flowers: Originates in the subterminal portion of the developing tubercles, not in the plant apex. The flowers are diurnal, yellow, with the base of the inner perianth segments orange coloured. Outer segments greenish yellow, The receptacular tube displays papyraceous, lanceolate  scales, with  terminal aristae and short white hairs in the axil; Lanceolate scales with white hairs in the axil are also presents in the pericarpel.
Fruit: Green and fleshy when young, covered with lanceolate scales with wool in the axil, dry when ripe with irregular longitudinal dehiscence.
Seeds: Big, up to 3 mm in length, cap-like, testa  tuberculate , black or dark coffee coloured; hilum basal and very deep, micropyle, outside the hilum, but adjacent.

A. capricorne
 and A. caput-medusae  flowers

Photo kindly provided by Manuel Nevarez de los Reyes

A. myriostigma  and A. caput-medusae  flowers
Photo kindly provided by Manuel Nevarez de los Reyes


Long bristle and the first adaxial areole.

Fruit and seeds


Micropropagation: callus and...

 ...the first adventitious shoots.


Cultivation:The specific requirements of this new and very particular plant still need be investigated.
In this two years we have done some preliminary observation on a very limited sample of seedlings:

  • The plants grow very fast either grafted and on their own roots (possibly grafting is not required)
  • Grafted plants are very sensible to drought, waterlessness for a few day conduct (especially in summer) to a complete or partial loss of tubercle that dry in a few hours, this seems due to the very small proportion of the stem, and to the fact that the big tap root (a water storage organ) is not present, in fact the plants on their own roots are more stable and resistant. Anyway the tubercles are deciduous they easily dry and detach but are soon replaced by new one (a single tubercle can reach maturity in a few week)
  • Young seedlings seem to need some light watering in winter, no damages or rot has been evidenced for plants watered in winter.
  • They prefer a shaded or semi-shaded position as they live in habitat under shrubs.
  • All the few plant under observation stopped to grow at the end of August, beginning a complete winter dormancy. The first sign of new growth appeared only on the month of march.
  • The plant are quite resistant to frost (during winter the green house temperatures varied from a minimum of 0° C at night to a maximum of 25° C during sunny days) no sign of damage has been signalized.

Photo gallery: Alphabetical listing of Cactus and Succulent pictures published in this site.

Photo gallery Astrophytum



Family: Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Conservation status: Listed in CITES appendix 2.

Scientific Name: Astrophytum caput-medusae (Velazco & Nevarez) D. Hunt comb. nov. 2003
Published in: HUNT, D. Cactaceae Systematic Initiatives, 15(4):1-2; 5-6, 2003

Astrophytum subg. Stigmatodactylus D. Hunt nom. nov. 2003 (?)

Holotype: Herbarium of the science faculty - biology U.A.N.L. (UNL-023704)

Isotype:  Herbarium of the science faculty - biology U.A.N.L. (UNL-023705), other material examined  UNL-023706, UNL-023707, UNL-023708.:

Author: M. Nevárez de los Reyes M. and C. Velazco Macías

Type locality: Mexico, Nuevo León,

Habitat: Matorral espinoso tamaulipeco

Date: August 28 2001

Basionym: Digitostigma caput-medusae Velazco & Nevarez
Original description in: VELAZCO, C.G.; NEVAREZ, M. Cact. Suc. Mex. 47(4):76-86, 2002

Synonyms: Digitostigma caput-medusae Velazco & Nevarez 2002

Etymology:  The genus name "Astrophytum" derives from the Greek words "aster (αστηρ)", meaning a "star" and "phyton (φυτον )", meaning  "plant". ( The Genus name implies: "star plant").
The species
name "caput-medusae" derives from
the Latin word “caput” which means “head” and "Medusa (Μεδουσα)"  the Greek mythological woman whose blond hair was turned to snakes and whose stare turn objects to stone, was slain by Perseus. ( The specific name implies: "Medusa's head")

Mattoral espinoso tamaulipecoDistribution: Mexico, Nuevo León (locality withheld)

Grows among shrubs in the Matorral espinoso tamaulipeco (Tamaulipan thornscrub land) in shaded position.



Photo kindly provided by Vadim, Moscow

Digitostigma caput-medusae first bud
The first flowers bud.




( One week ) Germination

(2 weeks) First tubercle, woolly spines on the apical areoles.

(40 days) The trichomes are evident.

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