Esposloa lanala can at first be mistaken by the amateur for Cephalocereus senilis and is often loosely referred to as an old man cactus as well. It differs primarily in having quite sharp and well pronounced central spines, especially near the top of the stem, whereas C. senilis is almost completely spineless. It grows wild in the northern part of Peru where it forms a large tree with numerous spreading branches. Cultivated specimens are fairly slow growing. The species has between twenty and twenty-five low rounded ribs with closely set areoles which support a large number of radial spines largely concealed by the long white hairs. These hairs tend to wrap themselves horizontally round the stem, and even in quite young plants form a dense tangled tuft of wool on top. They are further characterized by the presence of a solitary central spine, yellowish brown in colour, which can be felt quite distinctly if the plant is grasped in the hand. Within the overall name there are two distinct varieties commonly offered for sale on a commercial scale. E. lanala has ribs which are to some extent visible beneath the hairs and can be quite easily counted, whereas the variety E.l.sericala is very much more densely covered with a tangled mass of hairs. These plants should not be washed.

The two species discussed so far both have dark green bodies, but there are also forms with almost black or purplish plant bodies even more densely covered by long hairs which may be referred to E.melano-siele, sometimes now called Pseudoesposloa IIS melanostele.

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