A beautiful, distinctive, tightly spined small cylindrical plant, with bright orange or red flowers. The name comes from Helios, the Greek word meaning the sun. Mosti & Papini (2011) recognise three subspecies: Aylostera heliosa ssp. heliosa, A. heliosa ssp. cajasensis (Donald) Mosti & Papini, and A. heliosa ssp. condorensis (Donald) Mosti & Papini. A number of other varieties have been named in the past, including A. heliosa var. flavida, A. heliosa var. solisioides, A. heliosa var. teresae. The plant grows near Tarija in Bolivia and is quite variable in habitat, with populations grading into one another. The nominate subspecies is small bodied, with tiny spines, white and brown, and orange flowers. Ssp. cajasensis is a little larger and taller and has slightly more prominent spines, and usually orange-red to red flowers; and ssp. condorensis is the largest, with prominent spines, and dark red flowers.
The original descriptions of all three subspecies are here.
Plants of this species in the collection include: