Taken from the native name of the plant (in Quechua, ayrampo, airampo, ayrampu means garnet red), whose fruits are used as a colouring in food, and as a dye.
A genus of small, low, strongly articulated and compact opuntias, forming small cushions. Spines finely aciculate, of variable size and colour, glochids present, small cylindrical deciduous leaves. Flowers diurnal, self-sterile, bell-shaped, of variable colour, yellow, orange, red, carmine red to purplish red, rarely white, stigma pistil emerald green, pollinated by wasps and bees. Fruits somewhat fleshy, laterally dehiscent, yellow to red, with red pulp serving as a colouring agent. Seeds rather small, flattened, kidney-shaped, more or less wrinkled, straw-coloured, but often strongly coloured by the pigment of the pulp, the aril being almost naked and rough. Dispersal provided (amongst others) by Rheas (Pterocnemia pennata, Faúndez 2012).
The genus Airampoa grows mainly in the Andean Precordillera areas, in the puna and altiplano, between 1800 and 4000 m in altitude, on gravelly or sandy soils, at ground level, forming colonies, sometimes growing under shrubs, mostly in full sun unprotected, and with poor surrounding vegetation.
Argentina (Catamarca, Jujuy, Rioja, Mendoza, Salta, San Juan, Tucumán),
Currently 11 species, among which some are more or less doubtful (following Doweld, 2002):
– Airampoa albisaetacens (Backeb.) Doweld 2002
– Airampoa armata (Backeb.) Doweld 2002
– Airampoa ayrampo* (Azara) Doweld 2002 (ex Tunilla soehrensii)
– Airampoa chilensis (Ritter) Doweld 2002
– Airampoa corrugata* (Salm-Dyck) Doweld 2002 (ex Tunilla longlspina)
– Airampoa erectoclada* (Backeb.) Doweld 2002
– Airampoa microdisca (F.A.C.Weber) Doweld 2002
– Airampoa minuscula (Backeb.) Doweld 2002
– Airampoa orurensis* (Cárdenas) Doweld 2002
– Airampoa picardoi (Marnier-Lapostolle) Doweld 2002
– Airampoa tilcarensis (Backeb.) Doweld 2002