This article is compiled from comments made to the TSG discussion page on the website during May and June 2014. It also makes reference to earlier articles on this species. Contributions to the website discussion were from:
Phil Crewe, Ivor Crook, Jiri Kolarik, Mike Partridge, Tony Roberts, Håkan Sönnermo and Ray Woodbridge.
Most visits by Europeans to see Punotia lagopus in habitat inevitably centre around the town of Macusani in Puno province of Peru. The usual access to the town is along Route 30C, a left turn from the main Cuzco to Juliaca road. Until recently, the road to Rosario was tarmac. Then, the last 60km to Macusani used to be a narrow, bumpy track that took half a day to negotiate. Today, there is an excellent modern tarmac road all the way from the coast to Macusani. This makes visiting Macusani much easier than in the past and accounts, in part, for its increased visitor numbers in recent times. Even Google street view has managed to map some of the roads into and around the town.
Conventional wisdom in the cactus world used to say that Punotia lagopus would only grow on a graft. Various theories were put forward as to why this should be the case. Most concentrated on the long length of time that the particular clone had been in cultivation. Today it seems that people are growing this plant both on a graft and on its own roots with equal success. Common grafting stocks include Austrocylindropuntia subulata and Opuntia humifusa. Claims have been made on other websites suggesting plants grafted on Opuntia humifusa produce more normal growth. By contrast, growth on Austrocylindropuntia grafting stock appears to be more rapid. Experiences in cultivation suggest that Punotia lagopus on grafts grow upwards first then start to branch.
All contributors suggest that the plants grow best in Western Europe in our winter. The optimum time to water them is from October to April. Håkan Sönnermo comments that he keeps his plants outside the greenhouse the rest of the year, in full light and very dry with some water only twice a month and some natural early morning dew. Plants grown on Opuntia humifusa appear to need more water than on Austrocylindropuntia subulata to keep the stock turgid. With regard to temperature, a significant day to night difference in temperature, as in habitat is suggested. Winter temperatures of 0-10 degrees Celsius when the plants are wet are recommended. The plants do seem to tolerate slight occasional frost as low as minus 5 degrees Celsius in the winter as a minimum. In common with seed of other Opuntias from Peru it is often slow to germinate. Germination of seed of related species may occur several years after sowing. Ray Woodbridge comments that although it is early days he seems to get better results by sowing seed in late March and early April.
Several habitat photographs have been submitted which show areas of dieback within the plants. The phenomenon has been noted on at least three trips to the area around Macusani. In the main, these photographs appear to show segments of dieback within the plants rather than from the edges. The paper in Bradleya talks of an upturned old hemispherical plant found in habitat with radiating branches spreading out on the ground from a single central stem. This suggests that damage to a radial branch from the main stem is the cause of the problem. Lizards and rabbits have been noted upon and within larger plants. It therefore seems possible that it may be damage by lizards, rabbits or rodents to a radial stem that causes this problem in habitat.