Eriosyce (2017)

PhotoBy Eric Driskill (March 2017)

The genus Eriosyce was first described by Rudolph Philippi in 1872. The name Eriosyce is derived from the Greek “erion,” wool; and “syce,” fig; referring to the woolly fruits. The genus contains 35 species that flower during the day throughout much of the year from sea level to almost 10,000 feet in the dry deserts of western South America.

The plants are typically solitary and globose to somewhat elongate. They have seven to over 30 ribs, usually notched between areoles and tuberculate. Spines, from none to many, are stiff and needlelike to thin and bristlelike. Flowers, borne near stem tips, are funnelform to nearly tubular and yellow to deep carmine. The floral tubes can have many scales subtending dense tufts of wool, sometimes with bristlelike spines.

Eriosyce is one of those genera that have it all. There are small plants such as E. aerocarpa, which resemble rebutias. E. bulbocalyx, with its dense spines, could almost pass as a turbinacarpus. Other species resemble Mammillaria or Coryphantha species. E. napina might get lost on the bench among escobarias.

In my opinion, one of the more interesting species is E. occulta, which can resemble a cross between a Frailea castanea, an ueblemania and a catcher’s mitt. The color of this plant can range from greenish-brown transitioning into dark chocolate to almost black. A well-grown plant is beautifully ominous – possibly lacking spines altogether, but demanding respect at the same time.

Many species of Eriosyce grow in high-elevation areas and enjoy high ultraviolet levels. Most grow in summer, when they should be watered regularly to somewhat conservatively. Use caution and keep them fairly dry in the winter, as the plants are susceptible to rot.

One search of the Internet for plant images displaying the range of colors, spination and flowers of the various Eriosyce species will certainly ensure that one or two make it onto your wish list.