Etymology - Name derived from the native "Maihuen" the Mapuche word for woman.Maihuenia is a genus largely accepted as containing two species which are quite distinct from other cactus. The plants in this genus are so different that they have been classified as the sole genus in the subfamily Maihuenioideae. These plants grow as mats which hug the ground and are made up of segmented short-rounded stems. The stems feature typically 3 spines per areole and also have small rounded leaves which do not fall off as they do in Opuntiads. The flowers come from the ends of the stems and are shades of yellow from near-white to orange. Club-shaped fruits are fleshy and contain bracts.
The natural habitat of this species is in the region known as Patagonia in the southern parts of Argentina and Chile at elevations of 0-8000 feet (2400m) elevation. In this harsh environment, these cacti commonly endure frost and are starting to become sought by cold-hardy cactus growers in North America. Yet, these plants are far from common in cultivation and one is not likely to encounter a plant for sale by accident.