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Plant of the Month
Like so many South American cacti, this taxon has been included in various genera, now all subsumed into Eriosyce, the oldest genus name available for these closely-related plants. It was first described by Ritter in 1963 as Pyrrhocactus floccosus, his genus of choice for these Chilean plants. Backeberg soon transferred it to his genus Neochilenia, which he had created for a number of Chilean plants with typical bee flowers.
The current approach, used in the New Cactus Lexicon, was set out by Kattermann in 1994 in his book 'Eriosyce (Cactaceae) The genus revised and amplified', in which he includes all these genera (and more) in Eriosyce, previously only used for two large-growing species. This 'lumping' also included the broadening of the species concept so N. floccosa became a variety of the widespread species Eriosyce taltalensis. The full name was proposed as Eriosyce taltalensis subsp. echinus var. floccosa
The name 'floccosa' refers to the dense wool that covers the stem, giving it a very distinct appearance. It usually has pink flowers that contrast beautifully with the white wool, although in some clones the flowers can be a cream colour. It is clearly related to the well-known and popular N. paucicostata, also treated as a subspecies of E. taltalensis by Kattermann.
These plants occur in the dry coastal valleys of northern Chile, from Caldera in the south to Antofagasta in the north. The best-known habitat for N. floccosa is Blanco Encalada, the locality of KK1173, from where the ancestors of the plant in the picture originally came. This place is probably more famous for having a large population of Copiapoa solaris
N. floccosa is not difficult to grow. It enjoys a sunny location with a compost comprising plenty of grit and little organic material, reminiscent of its natural habitat conditions. The best way to get a really woolly clone is to grow it from seed, so that you can choose the best from the seedlings which are likely to exhibit great variation in this character.
References: Kattermann, F. (1994). Eriosyce (Cactaceae) The genus revised and amplified. Succulent Plant Research Volume One. Ritter, F. (1963) Pyrrhocactus floccosus. Taxon 12:32.
Fig. 1: Neochilenia floccosa KK1173
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