Notocactus (2004)

By Chris Deem (June 2004)

Travel with me to a land between the Andes Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.

Under a scorching sun, in an area of central Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil, we find a large treeless grassland known as the pampas. Growing protected under the thin shrubs and in the tall grasses, we find the home of South America’s notocactus.

Notocactus was established as a subgenus of Echinocactus in 1898. The subgenus has gone through many changes and today comprises only a part of the original group described by Schumann.

Notocacti are attractive, dark- or bright-green cacti that are very willing to bloom. They are suited both to the novice learning to care for a South American species and the more advanced hobbyists who grow from seed.

In our collections, notocacti are usually easy to care for. Two exceptions are N. graessneri (Brasilicactus), which likes to be kept warmer than most, and N. magnificus (Eriocactus), which needs to adjust slowly to the more intense sunlight of spring. Otherwise, most like it warm and sunny, but half-shaded, and protected from full sun is best.

Notocacti like a medium-coarse, porous soil mix and ample watering, especially in the summer. The winter rest should be cool and dry. The plants grow well on their own roots and flower easily – even young plants bloom. Propagation is by seed.

The plant bodies are cylindrical or globular in shape and have pale-yellow or reddish-brown spines. Most of the notocacti have large yellow blossoms that appear in early summer. Two exceptions are N. uebelmannianus, a red-flowering species, and N. horstii, which has violet blossoms.