Old Man of the Andes
Known as the ‘old man of the mountain’ for the fluffy white hair that grows all over it, this cactus is native to the Andes in South America, growing at high altitudes. It is believed the hair protects the cactus from bright sunlight and intense ultraviolet. Its sap has developed antifreeze qualities to protect it from extreme temperatures.
A columnar cactus, the Oreocereus reaches up to 3m tall, with a thick stem of around 12cm in diameter. The stem is covered with downy white hair, thicker at the apex of the cactus, which makes it difficult to see the shape of the ribbed trunk. Stems have up to 25 ribs, only around 1cm tall, with central spines shaped like needles, around 8cm long. Multiple spines surround the central spine, all reddish-brown, and produced from a white areole.
Blooms occur in spring, producing tube-shaped, pink-red flowers around 10cm long. Flowers appear around the crown of the cactus after maturity. In the wild, Oreocereus is pollinated by the largest species of hummingbird!
Enjoys full sun, but protection from hot sunlight, preferring temperatures around 10-12°C, and allowed to dry completely between waterings.
Frost resistant. Half hardy in winter if dry to around -5°C.