Echinofossulocactus (2009)

By Chris Deem (March 2009)

It just sat there in a large black pot, looking like something straight out of a 1960s science fiction movie. Its small globular body was a mass of ceaseless green waves. It was chilling, a surreal vision of non-motion in still life.

Its spines seemed not to be spines at all. They appeared insectlike, long and bent, white but not quite white. Menacing, unmoving, waiting.

These are the first impressions I had while looking at a picture of a rather strange-looking cactus of the Echinofossulocactus genus.

Various Echinofossulocactus species are found in Hidalgo, Zacatecas, Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi. I use the term “species” with hesitation, because these cacti are very variable and hybridize easily – both in collections and in the wild.

After the wavy ribs, the next thing you notice about these plants is their spines. E. multicostatus, one of the most wavy and attractive species, has the appearance of an old-fashioned pincushion. By the time you get to E. erectocentrus and E. lloydii, the spines begin to look like toothpicks and tongue depressors. For now, let’s just skip over their strange, little striped flowers.

I’m sure it’s not a surprise that these cacti do not enjoy strong sunlight. Of course, in keeping with their strangeness, some of the plants will turn a sickly yellowish color to let you know this. Just shade them a little, watch out for mealy bugs and enjoy your strange little cacti.

Note: There is much confusion over the naming of these plants. Depending on which books you use to research them, you may also find them under Stenocactus. By any name, they are unique.