This is one of the rarest of all known cactuses , found at 3700 m elevation
in northern Argentina.
Description: Yavia is a
small-sized, mostly underground
monospecific species with strongly camouflaged aspect vaguely
Epithelantha micromeris. And most of it is a tuberous root !
Stem: Single, more rarely with two or more heads, very small; (in
habitat a specimen of 25mm diameter is an extraordinarily fat and old
plant). They have a flat top, with a woolly depression in the centre.
This superior disk is the only visible part of the plant and the only
part receiving the sunís rays. The lateral part of the stem is almost
cylindrical and is rugose. Cultivated plants change dramatically in
their aspect and become soon elonged.
Roots: Conical, succulent, they are a continuation of the
Areoles: Ordered in several lines that are not really ribs, just
small undulations for which the term tubercles is perhaps too much. In
cultivation areoles are whitish and hairy.
Spines: Small, at top of the plant 0.3 to 0.7mm long, and barely
visible without the aid of a magnifying lens. The older spines
decrepit, more or less destroyed.
Flowers and fruit: One or more flowers are produced from the
centre of the plant at one time. This deep centre, which is full of
hairs that protect the fruit during its development over several months,
is where the fruit dries and dehisces and where the new buds expel the
fruits and seeds for dispersal.
The fruit splits from the base. The very thin wall of the fruit looks
like thin, brown translucent paper.
Seeds: The number of seeds produced in each fruit vary from 1 to
7 seeds or occasionally more (up to 25)
Flowers: Yellow to lime green buds appear in late spring and are
followed by beautiful pink flowers (ca 20 mm in diameter)
Yavia is a very strange cactus that might be related with Cintia,
Blossfeldia, Weingartia and Neowerdermannia.
Cultivation The plants need deep
pots to accommodate the
napiform unit formed by the
stem base and the
rootstock , and a loose
mineral soil with a well-drained
substrate. They need a good amount of
light, a place near the roof of the greenhouse helps dry
out the pot
watering. This can be done weekly during the
summertime, if the weather is sunny enough, with a little
fertilizer added. Kept this way, plants will show a
healthy, although slow
growth. They are
frost hardy to -10įC.
seeds, remembering that
seedlings dislike strong
dry conditions and need to be
repotted frequently. Plants are often
grafted to accelerate growth, as they would generally take at least a
decade to reach
maturity on their own, but the grafted plants are typically rather
tall-growing, compared with plants on their
own roots, that are usually very flat to the ground.
Photo of conspecific taxa, varieties, forms and
cultivars of Yavia cryptocarpa.
Yavia cryptocarpa R. Kiesling &
gen. & sp. nov. Kakteen Succ. 52(3): 57-63, 2001.
Origin: Only known from a small area just on the
Argentinian side of the border with Bolivia, in the province of Jujuy,
near La Quiaca, at 3,700m., although the species surely has a wider
Habitat: It grows in a desert, or more
strictly a poor, semi-desert where the rare bushes are separated, several
meters apart. Sparse temporary grasses can be found for some weeks after
the rains, which fall between December and March, but it is possible
also to have some rainfall from October to April. The Yavia is a cactus
adapted to extremes, cold, drought and a low nutrient, and grows in the
crevices of the rocky soil, on the horizontal or on gentle slopes
normally just at the level of the soil surface or even lower, immersed
in the crevices. Some are even covered by small pebbles. Their extreme
rough conditions force them to live almost underground. When the rains
come, they swell, and peek up to reach for the sun. When drought starts,
they simply dry down under the surface, and get covered with a
protecting layer of dust. Their life is only maintained in the swollen
root, the caudex.
Conservation status: Listed in
CITES appendix 2.
Etymology: The genus is named after
Argentina's department Yavi, Jujuy province. The species 'cryptocarpa'
refers to the plant being a
cryptocarp. This means that the fruits are formed inside the plant's
body, thus being only visible when the plant shrinks in the drought