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This is a pretty epiphytic cactus with arching, strap-shaped stems, later branching and pendent, and eventually producing a curtain of stems reaching one metre or more in length. It produces flowers along the stems around May, in the UK. The flowers are about 2cm across.

The plant comes, as the name suggests, from Bolivia. There are several clones in cultivation, with different flower colours. Some are pale, others orange or even purplish. The pale-flowered clone pictured here is probably the cultivar named ‘Innes’. This is a reliable plant that can be grown in any open, organic-based compost. In common with many other epiphytes it does not like overwatering, and in fact seems to prefer being allowed to get quite dry around the roots between waterings. It enjoys being grown outside in dappled shade, in the summer. It is also cold tolerant, surviving down to at least zero Celsius in winter, though it’s probably better kept a little warmer if possible.

 05019 Fig1P.boliviana

Fig. 1 Pfeiffera boliviana

The plant is easily propagated by cuttings.

The New Cactus Lexicon lists about nine species of Pfeiffera but more recent molecular analyses have shown that, despite the morphological similarities, these plants belong in two distinct – and not at all closely related – groups. One group remains as Pfeiffera, while the other group has been transferred to a separate genus, Lymanbensonia, within a new cactus tribe, the Lymanbensonieae.

 05019 Fig.2P.bolivianaflowers

Fig. 2 Pfeiffera boliviana – flower

Pfeiffera boliviana was one of the species that retained its name. But the same study also suggested that different clones being grown under this name were not particularly closely related to each other, either; so clearly there is more sorting out to do here, in due course! Meanwhile you should just continue to grow, and enjoy, the plant(s)


Mark Preston


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