Astrophytum (2004)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (May 2004)

I am a member of the family Cactaceae. I live in Texas and throughout Eastern and Northern Mexico. I am an astrophytum.

Astrophytums come in a variety of shapes and are very beautiful plants. These hard-skinned cacti are the epitome of the true cactus. Sadly, they are almost extinct in their natural habitat.

There are about 10 basic species. Some are spineless, like A. myriostigma and A. asterias, and some have spines, like A. capricorne or A. ornatum.

Depending on the species, astrophytums need a sunny or half-shady spot that is always warm. They like a slightly acidic soil and should be kept mostly dry in winter. Some species have very sensitive roots and grafting is sometimes recommended.

A. capricorne, for example, is one of the more delicate astrophytums. The older plants tend to lose their roots and are often grafted. They do, however, have the largest flowers of all astrophytums. They are better known for their curving spines. The name capricorne means “goat-horned.”

A. myristigma, the Bishop’s Cap, is an example of a hardier member of the family. This spineless, star-shaped cactus was discovered in 1837. In its native habitat, it can grow to almost 3 feet high.

Two other well-known astrophytums are the beautiful A. ornatum and A. asterias. In the wild, A. asterias is a flat, compressed plant that can only be found after it rains.