Tephrocactus Species, Paper Spine Cactus

Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Tephrocactus (tef-roh-KAK-tus) (Info)
Species: articulatus var. papyracanthus
Synonym:Opuntia papyracantha
Synonym:Tephrocactus papyracanthus


Cactus and Succulents

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


6-12 in. (15-30 cm)


9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

12-15 in. (30-38 cm)


USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual


Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Pale Yellow

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From woody stem cuttings

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Chandler, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona(2 reports)

Capistrano Beach, California

Castro Valley, California

Clayton, California

Fairfield, California

Irvine, California

Oak View, California

Pittsburg, California

San Diego, California(2 reports)

San Francisco, California

Santee, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Des Moines, Iowa

Joplin, Missouri

Henderson, Nevada

Cincinnati, Ohio

Summerville, South Carolina

Brownsville, Texas

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jun 20, 2015, SalviaQueen from Grass Valley, CA wrote:

I bought this plant because of how weird it looked. This is my first cactus, I usually work with succulents. When it fell apart I was upset, I thought I had not watered it enough . Then I found this from the Cactus Jungle, "Tephrocactus articulatus is the Paper-Spine Cactus. They propagate by breaking apart easily. No, really, it's true! You barely look at these and the stems pop off and roll down the hill to set root somewhere else. If you live on a slope you can send them into your neighbors yard! They'll thank you later". I got a chuckle out of this as well as relief,that I didn't kill it. As of right now it is in my sun room, I plan on taking one of the pieces and putting it in the ground in my rock garden to see if it survives.


On Jun 13, 2007, sandgravel from Honolulu, HI wrote:

I really like this cactus but I don't know what is wrong. It looks like a snow man. It started with two "balls" then grew another but the whole time it seemed like it was dead! The fourth "ball" came out then all of the four fell over (remained linked) and I can't find any roots. I had it in potting soil with 50% perlite. Does it need food? I very seldom water it. It gets full sun and all the other cactuses around it seem to be happy and thriving. Help!

I'm going to separate a segment, allow it to callous and then see if I can root it.


On Feb 17, 2005, hanna1 from Castro Valley, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

Also known as Spruce Cone Cholla. Originally from Westen Argentina. Sunset zones 8,9 12-24. Little to no water!. Hardy in Phoenix, to 15F, Aug Temps to 50F, Blooms are either white or yellow, 2" fruit is brown. Propagation is from seeds or cuttings. Fertilize during growth season in the Spring, 2 parts sand, 2 parts loam with small gravel for good drainage.


On Jun 19, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Interesting harmless-looking cactus with wide, papery spines. It develops in little pine-cone shaped segments and is very fragile at each segment, taking little effort to break off pieces at that point (had to blow leaves out of my cactus garden with a leaf blower and even that would end up blowing off segments of this species). Easy to propgate from the segments, though. I never could get one to grow very tall as they kept falling apart. Closely related to the much hardier pinecone cactus, which never seem to come apart at its segments. Note that though this plant seems relatively harmless- the large, flat spines are not all that fearsome... .the little fur-like spines at the base of these larger spines are quite a nuisance, and you should still use gloves to handle this plant.