Eve’s Pin (Austrocylindropuntia subulata)

Eve's Needle, Eve's Needle Cactus, Eve's Pin, Eve's Pin Cactus, Eve's-Pin Prickleypear, Long Spine Cactus

If your cacti family needs a new member, check out Austrocylindropuntia subulata a.k.a. Eve’s pin cactus. This cute plant is a great choice for any cacti and succulent lover! The peculiar and easy-going nature of this cactus is absolutely irresistible, but it is not what makes it a must-have species. Eve’s pin cactus is pretty rare in cultivation, so you will have something to show off with if you manage to get one.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Austrocylindropuntia subulata is a species of cactus native to the Peruvian Andes. The Latin specific epithet subulata means “awl-like”, referring to the shape of the rudimentary leaves. It is also known by its common names as Eve’s pin and Eve’s needle.

The first description as Pereskia subulata took place in 1845 by Friedrich Mühlenpfordt. Curt Backeberg classified it in the genus Austrocylindropuntia in 1942.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata can reach heights up to 4 metres (13 ft), with numerous branches. The elongated, slightly brittle branches are up to 50 centimetres (20 in) long. The stems are marked by rhomboid to ovate bumps in a few spiral rows. At the tip of each bump is the areole, from which grow one to four straight, grayish-white spines up to 8 centimetres (3 in) long. The awl-like rudimentary leaves are up to 12 centimetres (5 in) long.

The orangy-pink flowers are up to 6 centimetres (2+1⁄4 in) long. The long, warty hypanthium is covered by rudimentary leaves up to 2 centimetres (3⁄4 in) long. The fruit are ovoid or club-like and sometimes thorny. They are up to 10 centimetres (4 in) long.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

Eve’s pin is a heliophilic plant and needs sufficient sunlight for its growth and blooming. It can be placed on the outdoor balcony or in the garden without shade. However, long-time exposure to blazing sunlight should be avoided in hot summer, when it needs to be shaded or cooled a little to prevent high temperatures from damaging it.

Temperature

Eve’s pin is distributed throughout tropical, subtropical, and semi-desert regions with scarce rainfall, intense sunlight, and hot temperatures. The optimum temperature for growth is 20 to 35 ℃. Lower than 10 ℃ or higher than 35 ℃, growth slows and dormancy begins. The air humidity should not be too high and the environment should be well-ventilated. Avoid high humidity and accumulated water.

Watering

Eve’s pin is a drought-tolerant plant that does not require frequent watering. Water thoroughly when the soil is completely dry. When potted, water slowly, wait for water to flow out the bottom, and then pour the excess water from the tray to avoid water accumulation.

Spring, summer, and fall are its growing seasons. Water once or twice a week to keep the soil slightly wet. In winter, water less; just keep the soil from drying excessively; usually once a week. Besides, water with rainwater or distilled water rather than tap water.

Tap water contains a lot of calcium, magnesium, and other mineral salts. Long-term use tends to cause soil compaction. Avoid splashing water on its stem when watering to prevent rotting.

Soil

Eve’s pin grows best in fertile, gravel-rich, water-permeable soil with a pH value of 6-7. The culture soil formula often used is 60% vermiculite + 20% coco coir or peat moss + 20% sandy soil. A small amount of organic potting soil can also be added. Lightweight culture media such as vermiculite can be added to improve the air permeability of the soil. Eggshell powder or vermicompost can also be added to increase the soil fertility.

Roots of Eve’s pin are very sensitive to oxygen deficiency. If the soil is poorly permeable to air and water, root rot can set in. It’s easy to judge permeability: when watering, water should pass through the medium quickly, rather than stop at the soil surface and slowly seep down. Repot and loosen the soil every year to ensure the air permeability of the soil.

Fertilizing

In growing seasons (namely spring, summer and fall), fertilize eve’s pin once a month with liquid fertilizer. No fertilizer is required in winter. A small amount of slow-release fertilizer can be well mixed into the soil when repotting in spring or fall.

Use nitrogen fertilizer during seedling and phosphate-potassium fertilizer before and after blooming. The fertilizer concentration should be as low as possible. It would be better to apply low-concentrate fertilizer several times rather than to use a high concentration. If the base is yellow and grows slowly, the cause may be excessive fertilizer, and fertilization should be immediately stopped.

Planting Instructions

Sow, plant, or repot in spring or fall when the temperature is 15 to 20 °C . Keep air humidity high when seeding. Use plastic film to cover the soil and remove it after the seeds germinate.

Use permeable clay flower pots for potted plants. Too large a flowerpot accumulates water easily, while too small a flowerpot limits the development of roots. Before planting, expose soil to blazing sunlight and disinfect to kill pathogens.

If planted in the garden, eve’s pin prefers an area with full sun and loose soil. Remove all weeds and replace the soil if needed to ensure good water permeability and avoid root rot. Wear gloves or use tongs when planting to prevent your fingers from getting pricked. You can also wrap the plant in a towel to help you move it.

Pruning

Eve’s pin does not require much pruning. Remove withered flowers and branches so the plant uses nutrients on healthy growth.

Propagation

Propagating this cactus can be done using seeds, stem, or root cuttings. But taking note of the results after propagating my succulents, I tend to find stem cuttings as the most fruitful option. So long as you have the right potting mix that drains well and ample access to the sunlight, your stem cuttings will develop roots in a short span, compared to other methods. To propagate your Eve’s Needle cactus without any alarming faults, you’ll need to:

  • Use a sharp and sterilized knife or pair of scissors to make a few stem cuttings right from the base part of the mother plant.
  • Only choose those that look healthy and have fewer blemishes.
  • Leave the cuttings out in the sun to dry. A callus will form on the wounds to protect the cuttings from catching any infectious diseases caused by bacteria, fungi, and pests.
  • Prepare the potting mix using the hints we shared right under the soil and transplanting section.
  • Place the cuttings in individual pots if you’re looking to have a number of them in your garden or indoor space.
  • Water the soil gently till the cuttings begin to form roots.
  • Since the Eve’s Needle cactus has spines, don’t miss to wear protective gear while handling to avoid hurting your hands and eyes.

Pests and Diseases

Drought tolerant houseplants tend to be unfussy and aren’t prone to any serious pests or diseases. This variety is, however, vulnerable to overwatering and underwatering. If the soil remains wet for too long, the roots will eventually begin to decay. Neglecting its watering needs, on the other hand, would cause your cactus to lose its blissful appearance quite frightfully.

The stems can also suffer from soft rot due to bacterial or fungal infections which are most commonly caused by not giving your plant the right lighting and watering requirements. Wounds on your plant could also be an entry point for bacteria. Make sure your cactus is getting proper air circulation to prevent the spread of fungal infections.

If there’s too much moisture in the soil, pests such as scale insects and mealybugs usually attack this succulent, especially if it’s growing indoors. Taking close attention to the nurturing requirement would help deter such dreadful conditions from happening.

Maintenance

One notable attribute about most cacti plants including the Eve’s Needle cactus is they have minimal grooming and maintenance. For the most part, you’ll only need to get rid of stems that look wilted or show signs of rotting. You can trim the stems to make them grow into a desired shape or size. If you’re not looking to harvest the fruits from your cactus, you can get rid of the flowers once their vigor trails off.

III. Uses and Benefits 

This is a decorative cactus with a unique and interesting appearance. It looks beautiful when grown as container plants or a small tree and a potted specimen indoors or outdoors.

There are several popular cultivars as well.

  • Austrocylindropuntia subulata monstrose
  • Opuntia subulata cristata

Awl Cactus can also be planted along with other cacti in dish gardens or rock gardens as they add to the character of a garden.

Ancient Peru also widely cultivated this plant to make needles and fences.

Another option is to use its cousin plants, Cane Cactus and Sea Coral – both part of the Opuntia genus and grow beautifully alongside each other.

IV. Harvesting and Storage

Most fruits of eve’s pin are edible. Pick the fruit when they turn red. Avoid food safety issues by confirming the species with experts. Wear gloves or use scissors and other tools to harvest.

Eve’s Pin (Austrocylindropuntia subulata) Details

Common name Eve's Needle, Eve's Needle Cactus, Eve's Pin, Eve's Pin Cactus, Eve's-Pin Prickleypear, Long Spine Cactus
Botanical name Austrocylindropuntia subulata
Plant type Houseplant
Hardiness zone 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
Growth rate Slow
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Loam (Silt)
Flower color Orange
Leaf color Green