Cleistocactus strausii, commonly known as the silver torch or wooly torch, is a perennial cactus of the family Cactaceae. It is native to high mountain regions of Bolivia and Argentina, above 3,000 m (9,843 ft).
Its slender, erect, grey-green columns can reach a height of 3 m (9.8 ft), but are only about 6 cm (2.5 in) across. The columns are formed from around 25 ribs and are densely covered with areoles, supporting four yellow-brown spines up to 4 cm (1.5 in) long and 20 shorter white radials.
The cactus prefers free draining soils, strong sunlight, but not high temperatures — in fact it can withstand hard frosts down to -10 °C. In its natural habitat it receives plenty of water during the summer, but almost none over the winter. In cultivation, watering too much in winter often leads to root rot.
Older cactuses, over 45 cm (17.5 in) tall, produce deep red, burgundy, flowers in late summer. The 6 cm (2.5 in) long cylindrical flowers protrude horizontally from the columns. In common with other cacti in the genus Cleistocactus, the flowers hardly open, with only the style and stamens protruding. Cultivated plants often flower freely. In the United Kingdom, this plant is usually grown under glass, and has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
The silver torch cactus (Cleistocactus strausii) derives its name from the Greek word "kleistos" which means "closed." This is due to its deep red/burgundy flowers rarely opening.
The cactus has gray-green columns that grow up to 10 meters tall and a few inches wide which are covered in white spines. Only older plants will blossom deep red/burgundy cylindrical flowers. These flowers horizontally emerge from the stem of the cactus. These deep red to burgundy flowers grow up to 3 inches long.
The silver torch cactus, which has many names (snow pole, wooly torch), is a perennial cacti endemic to Peru, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Argentina. As such, this cactus prefers high, mountainous regions that are dry and semi-arid. Like other cacti and succulents, it thrives in porous soil and full sun. While partial sunlight is the minimum requirement for survival, full sunlight for several hours a day is required for the silver torch cactus to bloom flowers.
Silver torch cacti can thrive in low-nitrogen soil without facing the consequences of low nitrogen. Too much water will make the plants weak and lead to root rot.
This cactus is locally abundant in its native land and has few local threats to its survival, so it is rated Least Concern.
This cactus can be propagated by cuttings or seed.
Cuttings should be taken near the base of the main stem, similar to cuttings for aloe vera. Rooting of this new cutting usually occurs within 3-8 weeks, therefore it is usually better to propagate silver torch cactus via seed.
As a houseplant, the silver torch cactus is an easy to take care of so long as over-watering is avoided. To naturally simulate the porous effects of the sand in its native habitat, it is important to ensure that excess water will not pool in the soil, causing the roots to become water logged.
This plant’s native habitat does not have winter, but when temperatures drop to the low twenties, it can exhibit signs of tip frost.
Mealybugs are one of the most common pests of cacti and succulents. Mealybugs can be identified by their white, cottony masses on the plant. These are signs that the bugs are reproducing. These pests are especially problematic to plants such as the silver torch cactus because they suck out plant sap, depleting the strength of the plant. These plant-sucking bugs can also cause sooty mold along with their fluffy white wax, detracting from the appearance of these plants. Another form of mealybug attacks the root system of plants, which is harder to detect.
Mites thrive in the same hot, dry conditions that the silver torch cactus lives in. Spider mites cause damage by sucking out vital nutrients from the plant. Large populations of mites can cause irreversible damage on the plant, eventually killing the plant.
However, both pests can be hosed off the cactus with water.
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- W. (2016, December 27). Cleistocactus strausii - Silver Torch Cactus. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://worldofsucculents.com/cleistocactus-strausii-silver-torch-cactus-snow-pole/
- Mealybugs in the Greenhouse. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/insect-and-related-pests-of-flowers-and-foliage-plants/mealybugs-in-the-greenhouse[permanent dead link]
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