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Copiapoa hypogea "Lizard skin"


Cultivation and Mail Sale
of Cacti and Succulents.

The distinctive rugose stem of “Lizard skin”
This uncommon and rare form has a very peculiar epidermis of the colour of a lizard!!!

Description: Solitary or clumping slowly (occasionally dichotomously branched) by offsets at the base.
Root: Tuberous-napiform, connected though a narrow region to the main stem
Stem: Grey-brown or more commonly bronzed, depressed-globose, 3-4 cm in diameter (up to 7 cm in cultivation), the aerial part is almost disc-shaped and almost sunken in the ground with white wool in the centre, also in the older areoles. Epidermis smooth or roughened.
Ribs: 10-14(16) divided in extremely low often spiralled tubercles up to 4-8 mm apart, about 4-7 mm in diameter and up to 5 mm tall.
Areoles: Small 1-3 mm wide, sunken, oval, with white felt and well separated.
Spines: Completely absent on older part of the plant.
Central spines: Absent or solitary and minute.
Radial spines: Very few (from 0 to 10) thin, short and less than 4 mm long. Brownish or black becoming ash grey and later deciduous.

Flowers: Diurnal, apical, with the typical Copiapoa scented, yellow and pink broad 1,5-2 cm long and 30-40 mm wide.
Blooming season: Hotter days in summer, blooms open about to hours after sunrise and close two hours before sunset.
Fruit: Slightly fleshy, small globular whitish with only few minuscule apical scales.
Seed: Shining black an smooth, about 1 mm long, 0,75 mm large and 0,5 mm thick.

Photo of conspecific taxa, varieties, forms and cultivars
 of plants belonging to the Copiapoa hypogea complex
(This Taxon has lots of synonyms ( like many other cacti) whit several controversial varieties and subspecies and comprises a multitude of different forms, but where each form is linked to others by populations of plants with intermediate characteristics):

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

Photo gallery COPIAOA 



Family: Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Accepted Scientific name: Copiapoa hypogaea F. Ritter
n: Cactus, Paris, xv. No. 66, 19 (1960)

Origin: Two forms of C. hypogea are known from the neighbours of Chañaral (Coastal Chile, 02 Antofagasta), the fist (rare) at north of the town shows a rugose epidermid (the so called “Lizard skin”), the second near the town and in the south area with smooth epidermis (also known as C. barquitensis) this second form is more familiar in the collections.

Conservation status: Listed in CITES appendix 2.


  • Copiapoa barquitensis
  • Copiapoa hypogaea var. barquitensisB

 Etymology: The name 'hypogaea' comes from the Greek for 'underground', referring to the fact that most of the cactus head is usually sunken into the ground.



Bronze tones in full sun.



Cultivation: This 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 (10°C) to avoid rot.  Not highly tolerant of a great deal of frost. (Frost tolerance 0°C)

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