Oreocereus (2003)

PhotoBy Joe Robertson (January 2003)

Oreocereus, commonly referred to as Old Man of the Andes, are readily available in cultivation. From prostrate clusters to erect plants over 10 feet tall, this genus is characterized by long hairs. Additionally, the plants are armed with stout yellow to red spines, which extend beyond the hairs. The hairs are thought to protect the plant from the cold and ultraviolet light.

While these plants need bright light to grow, they will not tolerate this in combination with high temperatures. The genus ranges from Peru to Bolivia and Argentina.

I have an Oreocereus celsianus, and it seems to be more tolerant of our heat. One of the heaviest-bodied species in the genus, with stems that grow to over 4.5 inches thick and 8 feet tall, it is not as densely hairy as other species, but is armed with thick reddish spines. This cactus likes a good amount of water in summer, but very little in winter.