The name “Lemaireocereus stellatus” is actually a synonym of “Stenocereus stellatus”. Here below are other synonyms of this species name:
Lemaireocereus stellatus is native to Central Mexico, where it is widespread in the areas of Morelos, Puebla and Oaxaca. It grows at a wide range of altitudes, going from 500 to 2100 meters above the sea level, and its habitat are xerophyllous scrubs, which are woods inhabited by species that have developed modified tissues and several other mechanisms to resist drought, and deciduous forests. These are hot, semi-arid areas, with annual rainfalls from 300 to 800 millimeters per year, and mean annual temperature between 16 and 24ºC. At the present time, this species is not threatened, though its area of distribution is not so wide. Also, this species bears remarkably some habitat change.
Lemaireocereus stellatus is a columnar cactus, that branches at the base of the trunk, reaches a maximum height of about 4 meters and a diameter of up to 10 centimeters. It has a green to bluish stem, equipped with 8 to 12 rather marked and notched ribs, with whitish areoles, quite distant from one another and located at the top of the notches. We remind that “areoles” is the botanical term to define the typical buds of cacti, from which the thorns are formed. The spines are arranged in each areola to create the shape of a white star (that’s the reason of the species name “stellatus”, that means, in Latin, “starry”. Some of the thorns are rather short, others are very long and straight, fading into shades of gray and becoming black at the apex. There are around 8 to 12 spines sprouting from each areole. From June to September, flowers appear: they are solitary, tubulate to narrowly campanulate, and sprout from the apical part of the plant. They show a characteristic, beautiful white-pink color and, unlike other Lemaireocereus, are nocturnal: they begin to open up as soon as the sun sets, to be fully open around 3.00 in the morning and then closing down again between 7.00 am and 9.00 am. This is probably an evolutionary strategy to survive the intense sunlight and the extremely high temperatures typical of its natural habitat. The pollinators of this species, consequently, are nocturnal species such as hawkmoths, bats and beetles. L. stellatus, moreover, produces particularly abundant amounts of pollen and nectar. After they have wilted, around October, flowers are replaced by globular, red and spiny fruits of about 3 centimeters in diameter.
L. stellatus is not so difficult to grow. Here below are our cultivation tips:
The required exposure is very bright, possibly with direct sunlight. There’s some different, though, according to the position chosen: if you place it indoors, we suggest to provide it with indirect light, while, if it stays outside, it will need bright, direct light.
A good ventilation is also important.
Lemaireocereus are suited for very hot climates. We advise to keep them at temperatures above 10-12°C. L. stellatus, also, is particularly sensitive to cold. By the way, if you place it in a bright spot, under direct sunlight, and keep its substrate completely dry in Winter, it can resist down to -2ºC. We advise, in short, to plant it outdoors only if you live in areas with winters that are not too harsh. Otherwise, we suggest putting it in a pot and keeping it indoors during the cold season.
Water every 3-4 days from March to September, then stop watering completely during the vegetative rest. Do not water again unless the soil has dried up completely.
Use a standard compost for cacti and a neutral, light and very draining soil. A standard compost for cacti will do well.
Fertilize about once a month during spring and summer with a specific product for cacti, rich in Potassium and poor in Nitrogen.
L. stellatus grows quite fast and you will need to repot it every 1-2 years. Choose deep pots which can easily contain the roots, better if made of clay or anyway of a material that enhance the drainage.
Lemaireocereus are usually propagated by seed or, more rarely, by cutting: suckers (when present) can be used as cuttings. Branches are usually scarce and therefore branch cutting is not recommended. Seeds are easy to germinate. They take 7 to 14 days to give birth to new plants, if kept at 21-27ºC in a moist soil. We suggest to cover them with a glass or plastic cover to be removed graduallly as the plantlets grow. In the particular case of L. stellatus, branches are usually present and thus can be used as cuttings. After detaching one of them, wait for the wound to dry up (it will take around two weeks) and then lay it in the soil, inserting the base of the cutting partially into it and maintaining the soil moist until it puts roots.
Lemaireocereus stellatus was traditionally cultivated for its a sourish edible frui, called xoconochtli or Joconostle, which is quite good and tasty. Its genus name, “Lemaireocereus”, was choosen after Charles Lemaire, a French botanist specialised in cacti who lived from 1801 to 1871. The species name “stellatus”, instead, is due to the peculiar arrangement of the white spines on the areola of the stem, which is quite star-shaped (“stellatus” is a Latin word that means “starry”).
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