Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus

Common Name: “Paper Spine Cactus”

Scientific Classification:
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Sub-Family: Opuntioideae
Genus: Tephrocactus
Species: T. articulatus var. papyracanthus

Native To: Western Argentina

Growing Specs:

  • Appearance: This is one weird-looking cactus! It is relatively small, only growing to about 12 inches high.  It has medium to dark green, pinecone-shaped segments with long, white paper-thin spines. When the spines get long enough, they will curl over and resemble ribbon.
  • Flowering: Bell-shaped white flowers with yellow centers.
  • Hardiness: Hardy to 40 degrees F.

Care Requirements:

  • Light: Like most cacti, it favors bright light. Ideally, it would get some part shade during the hot afternoon, as it will not thrive with intense, full-day direct sun. Indoors, keep it in high indirect light. Outdoors, keep it somewhat sheltered from excessive heat and light.
  • Soil: To aid with proper drainage, it will need a good cactus or succulent mix, such as Hoffman 10410 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix, 10 Quarts.
  • Water: Watering needs are little. Allow it to dry out between waterings. This varies by season, temperature, humidity, placement, and size, but as a general rule, 2x per month should be sufficient. If you are unsure, check the soil.
  • Pests: It is susceptible to mealybugs (see picture below), so keep an eye out for those little buggers! If you notice any, be sure to check out my post, How to Treat a Mealybug Infestation Naturally, for treatment instructions.


Propagation: Easily propagated by offshoots or stem cuttings. Just place in a dry succulent/cactus mix (like the one linked above), and refrain from watering to avoid root rot! Lightly mist only once per week for one month. Once roots have formed (after about one month), water normally.

Toxicity: Cacti belonging the Opuntia genus (or in this case, sub-family Opuntioideae) are non-toxic to pets. Check out my Pet Safety Guide for more information on plant toxicity to animals.

Xylem Rising’s Observations: Cacti are often extremely slow-growing, and this plant is no exception! It hasn’t grown much from when I first got it almost 2 years ago. I’ve noticed that the new growth is much smaller than the old growth, which is indicative of insufficient light. Also, don’t be fooled! Despite the unintimidating paper-like spines, at the base of each one is a mass of fine needles that will attack you unassumingly. Proceed with caution when handling! Gardening gloves are your friend.

Insignificant seven month growth:


Small new growth

At the base of each papery spine, there are fine needles:



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