Mila euliliana F/Cuhlig (2012)

PhotoBy Don Lesmeister (June 2012)

From Peru … land of the Incas and the wondrous accomplishment that is known as Machu Picchu. This great empire and culture was all but eradicated by gold-seeking conquistadors in the 15th century, but if you listen closely, you might hear an ancient Incan scream “ouch!” after stepping on an ancestor of this show-worthy attendance prize.

Mila euliliana F/Cuhlig is a small but prickly cactus native to the arid part of the Peruvian landscape. Many species have been described for this genus. However, throughout the range, there is difficulty determining where one species leaves off and another begins, since the variation is gradual from one location to the next. As a result, most authors treat Mila as a monotypic genus with the single species M. caespitosa.

This mila is a miniature plant that readily forms small clumps resembling, in habit and texture, some of the species of Echinocereus. From the fleshy taproot come erect or prostrate clusters, more or less ovoid up to 30 centimeters long and 3 to 4 centimeters in diameter.

The epidermis is shiny gray-green. There are 11 to 13 low ribs. The areoles are closely set 2 to 4 millimeters apart, and are roundish with white to brownish felt. The plant’s 12 to 30 radial spines – very thin, acicular and sebaceous – are about 5 millimeters long and glassy white. They almost completely cover the small stems. One to six central spines, yellowish with reddish points, can be up to 3 centimeters long and first erected in the apex that tilts downward on the sides.

The flowers are yellow but dry reddish and are up to 2.5 centimeters in diameter. Profuse flowering occurs in June and July. The flowers appear in succession for a long time.

As for cultivation, the plant comes from mountainous areas, so it likes bright light and cool, dry conditions in the winter. This is important for the flowers as well as for plant health. Without a cold winter period of 32 to 50 degrees F, the mila normally will not bud well.

Mila euliliana F/Cuhlig needs a deep pot and good drainage to accommodate its taproot. The mila is very cold resistant to 14 degrees F for a short time. It is especially prone to root rot, so underpot and use a very fast-draining mix.

Propagation can be accomplished through cuttings, as it branches freely from the base. Also, the mila can be grown from seed or graft. Seed should be sown in the spring or summer. The seedlings should not be disturbed until they are well rooted, after which they can be planted separately in small pots.

Ironically, the conquistadors who came for gold rejected taking these spiny little nuggets, perhaps because they were seen as a nuisance and bothersome to their horses. Who knows … their loss is our gain.

I will try to take good care of this somewhat sensitive plant. It is relatively rare in cultivation. Thanks for the challenge and opportunity!

Sources: – – – –
Dave’s Garden –