Turbinicarpus subterraneus (Backeb.) A.D. Zimmerman

Turbinicaprus subterraneus
Turbinicaprus subterraneus

This is a restricted micro-endemic species found scattered in small populations in the state of Nuevo León (Mexico). It is sometimes considered to be a subspecies of T. mandragora and is evidently the most extreme species of the T. beguinii group.  Any other cactus that looked like this would be as a result of extreme etiolation, but this species is said to have evolved the spindly neck habit in order to raise itself above rocks and competing xerophytic vegetation in habitat.

It is tuberous rooted, and not that difficult to grow but it can be susceptible to over-watering particularly if kept in a non-ventilated place. Nearly all problems occur as a result of overwatering and poor ventilation, especially when weather conditions are dull and cool or very humid. Ideally, they should have very dry atmosphere.

Turbinicaprus subterraneus
Turbinicaprus subterraneus

It likes warmth, with a recommended minimum winter temperature of 5°C but plants kept perfectly dry can easily survive a light frost. Some growers report that it is prone to rot, especially after the first flowering. Consequently, it needs a very well-drained soil, and requires full sun. Watering should be rather infrequent to keep the plant compact, and avoid it becoming excessively elongated and unnatural in appearance. Keep dry in winter, or when night temperatures remain below 10°C.

 
It can generate new shoots from the tuber if the original stem is damaged.

Text and photos: Dave Whiteley.


No part of this article may be reproduced without permission. Copyright BCSS & the Author 2023

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