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  Copiapoa columna-alba
(Syn: Copiapoa cinerea var. columna-alba)

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of Cacti and Succulents.

Copiapoa columna-alba
 Really magnificent!!!

Description: Usually solitary, forms white columns. All the plant in habitats lean markedly northward toward the sun following the direction of predominant wind, leading to the illusion that the entire landscape is tilted, This behaviour has been explained as a tactic by which the cactus minimizes the surface area exposed to the direct rays of sun. Thus the sun hits the woolly bent-over top of the cactus at an 90 angle, with the long trunk receiving only indirect sun.
This species is more decorative than C. cinerea and one of the showiest of all cacti.
This appears to be a very variable species.
Stem: Variable 50-75 cm tall, 10-20 cm in diameter, epidermis covered with a thick stratum of ashy-white pruine (it is often more white than the C. cinerea). Apex flattened with abundant yellow-orange or grey wool and without spines.
Ribs: 27-47, depressed, obtuse and tuberculated, approx 1 cm wide, 5-7 mm tall. Inter-ribs suture wavy.
Areoles: Small (diameter 2-3 mm), oblong, with yellow-orange wool (later becoming grey) recessed within the lower part of tubercle, 4-8 mm apart.
Central spines: 1-3 sub-erected, strong, up to1-2 cm long, black, brown or amber-yellow (never grey). Often the young plants are completely spineless.
Radial spines: 4-5 thin and arching, 5-8 mm long. Normally not present in adult specimen.
Roots: Not napiform.
Flowers: Apical, funnel form, small (2-3 cm long), yellow, scentless. Tube 7-15 mm long, pale-yellow with few thin, red tipped scales. Nectar chamber up to 4 wide, 2 mm deep and open. Lower filaments 15-18 mm long inserted at the base of the nectar chamber, upper filaments up to 10 mm long on the wall of the tube. Filaments and anthers pale yellow. Style up to 2 cm long not surpassing the stamens, stigma lobes 10, golden-yellow. 7 - 14 tepals, 10-12 mm long, 3-5 mm broad rounded, pale yellow, not tinged in red.
Fruit: Deeply concealed within the apical wool, 7-10 mm in diameter, round or egg-shaped, pale green reddening toward the apex, almost naked with only few (3-4 mm long) scales. Almost completely dry at maturity, deihscence capsular (less pulpy than in C. cinerea).
Seeds: Shining-black. 1,2 mm long, 0,6 mm large, 0,5 mm thick. Covered with very fine flattened tubercles, hilum oval white.

Copiapoa columna-alba AW84 Pan De Azucar.

A young seedling from Pan De Azucar.

A young specimen AW88 ( Esmeralda)

Copiapoa columna-alba Esmeralda.

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

Photo gallery COPIAOA 



Family: Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Copiapoa columna-alba Ritter
In: Cactus (Paris), 65: 199 1959.

Accepted Scientific name: Copiapoa cinerea Philippi (Britton & Rose)
Published in: The Cactaceae (3) : 86 (1922)

Origin:  II Region Antofagasta, Chile, It occurs in large numbers at numerous locations from the Pan de Azucar in the south to just south of Taltal in the north, making impressive stands, resembling a marching army.

Habitat: Coastal areas from sea level up to 500 m in altitude. The plants obtain water mainly from condensation (Coastal fog/camanchaca) as rain is very rare. The plants grows in areas nearly devoid of other vegetation and exposed, but receive protection from direct sun through coastal fog (camanchaca). They have found a niche in the quebradas that run towards the Pacific Ocean, but always stopping short from the beach localities that are reserved by C. longistaminea and C. taltalensis. At the same time, it is obvious that there are many similarities with C. cinerea.

Conservation status: Listed in CITES appendix 2.


  • Copiapoa cinerea var. flavescens Backeberg n.n. 1959
  • Copiapoa cinerea var. columna-alba (Ritter) Backeberg 1962
  • Copiapoa cinerea var. nuda

A young specimen AW88 (from Esmeralda)

Cultivation: This extremely slow growing cactus is kept for the beauty of its form.  It must be protected from excessive heat and sun in summer, and seems to do best in cultivation with a bit of shade.  It requires light but regular waterings in summer, but let the soil mix dry between waterings,  Prone to rot if over-watered.  Needs good drainage.  Keep warm and dry in winter (10C) to avoid rot.  Not highly tolerant of a great deal of frost. (Frost tolerance 0C)

Propagation: Seeds (or offsets if available), Grafting is often used to speed growth rate and to create a back-up to plants in collection.

Photo of conspecific taxa, varieties, forms and cultivars of Copiapoa cinerea  complex. (This taxon has lots of synonyms (like most copiapoa, with several controversial varieties and subspecies):

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All the information and photos in cactus art file are now available also in the new the Enciclopedia of Cacti. We hope you find this new site informative and useful.