Neobuxbaumia polylopha


Carnegiea polylopha
Cephalocereus polylophus
Cereus polylophus
Pilocereus polylophus


Neobuxbaumia polylopha can be found only in Mexico, where is endemic to a small area (less than 6 kmq!) in the state of Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Querétaro and San Luis Potosí. Its habitat is located at altitudes between 800 and 1300 meters above sea level: Neobuxbaumia grows in limestone canyon walls, along with other cacti such as Mammillaria priessnitzii and Ferocactus glaucescens. This species is threatened by human activities in these canyon (such as tourisms). Recently, also, a a bacterial disease affecting this species was discovered in its habitat.


Neobuxbaumia polylopha is a coloumnar cacti, growing up to spectacular heights: in its natural habitat it can become 15 meters tall! This is probably the reason for one of its popular names: golden Saguaro (the Saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, is another huge columnar cacti). The trunk of Neobuxbaumia polylopha can reach 20 centimeters in width and is divided into 10 to 30 ribs depending on the age, narrow and closely packed. Another astonishing feature of this cacti is that, despite its huge size, the stem remains often solitary and unbranched! Sometimes, however, it branches close to the top, forming a candelbra-shaped structure, with slightly curved branches. The spines are yellowish and turn grey as the plant ages. The yellowish tinge is probably the reason for the attribute “golden” in the above-mentioned common name of this cacti, “Golden Saguaro”. These spines are are up to 2 centimeters long and sprout from small, felted in yellowish areoles. The areoles are the typical buds of cacti, from which the spines are formed. In Neobuxbaumia polylopha, areoles are lined up upon the crests of the ribs and, for each areole, is formed a central spine and 4 to 8 radial spines. The central spines points outwards, while the radial ones are, indeed, arranged radially around the central. As the plant ages, spines tend to fall off. Flowers are, also, very beautiful. They can sprout at the top of the stem or either along it, laterally: they can be also rather numerous on one plant. They have many, magenta petals and are not grouped in inflorescences, like in almost all cacti. Fruits, instead, are small (4 centimeters long), cylindrical and fleshy. They are also edible, though they are usually appreciated more by birds than humans. They ripen fast and the seeds might germinate in only three weeks.


Neobuxbaumia polylopha is not difficult to cultivate. Here are our cultivation tips:

In greenhouse in full light, in a humid environment. Outdoors, place it in a bright spot, under direct sunlight.
Be careful not to leave the plant below 6 – 8 ° C. In winter it is better to shelter the plant, possibly moving it indoors or in a greenhouse.
Water abundantly but unfrequently in Spring and Summer, always waiting for the soil to dry up completely before each irrigation. Stop watering completely in the period from October to March, for a proper vernalization.
Choose a poor, rocky, well-drained soil.
A standard fertilizer for cactaceae can be used in pots.
They do not need frequent fertilization: just dilute a specific product for cacti with watering once a year, during the growth season.
Normally, these cactacees need to be repotted once every 1-2 years: they can grow 15-20 centimeters a year. Just repot anytime you see that the plant has outgrown its pot. 


The propagation of Neobuxbaumia polylopha is usually carried out through seeds. Sow in a well-drained substrate, at temperatures of 25ºC: seeds germinate in 2 weeks to one months. Cuttings are also possible: take one in Spring and let it dry up until the callous is formed. After that, plant it in a well-drained soil.


Neobuxbaumia polylopha, for its rarity and its restricted occurrance in nature, is not so popular among locals and has no traditional uses. On the contrary, succulent lovers adore it and it’s popular in nurseries. The genus name was given in honour of Franz Buxbaum, a botanist: its prefix “Neo”, meaning “New”, has been given in order to distinguish the genus from “Buxbaumia”, which is instead a genus of mosses. Many crested and varieagted forms of Neobuxbaumia polylopha can be found on the market.

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