Pachycereus

Family: Cactaceae
Habitat: Central America, between northern Mexico and southern California.
Cultivation: This plant is easy to grow: use standard cactus soil or a mixture of peat and sand and water sparingly.
Curiosity: It is commonly called the ‘elephant cactus’ due to its large size. The name comes from the Greek ‘pachys’, meaning large, and “cereus”, which means “torch”. The epithet “torch” is instead common to many cacti genus and refers to their form, similar to the one of a candelabra. Pachycereus can grow up to a century old!

KEY FEATURES

The genus Pachycereus includes columnar cacti characterised by their large size and longevity, sometimes arranges in bushes. Some specimens can be up to a century old and up to 20 metres high. Pachycereus pringlei, for example, reaches the height of 19,2 meters, and it’s one of the biggest cacti in the whole world!

In their natural habitats, arid areas in California and Mexico, these cacti can form entire forests.

The stem is columnar, dark in colour, with very pronounced vertical ribs and a diameter of until one meter! It is also highly branched. As it happens in many columnar cacti species, the small seedlings are really different from the larger, mature plants. For example, spines are really more dense and thick in younger plants than in the older ones, where they are less numerous and sometimes even absent.
In geneal, anyway, thorns grow along the areoles, on the ribs, and are grey in colour.

A few species have a pseudocephalium, which is an area, which can look like a globose branch, on the side of the stem with much denser hair and bristly spines that develops near the top of the stem, of some species of cacti. In this area, often flowers and fruits are produced.

However, usually in Pachycereus flowers grow along the whole height of the stem, on the areoles which are on the surface of the ribs. They are white and bloom at night, only when the plant has already reached a few years of age (around 7-8). They are usually tubular or funnel-shaped, up to 10 centimeters long and have a scaled, spiny or hairy base, depending on the species.
The fruits, with red or white flesh, are edible and were used by Native Americans.

The most popular species of Pachycereus are undoubtely P. pringlei and P. marginatus. The former is a native of southern California and is often confused with the well-known “Saguaro” (Carnegiea gigantea, another big, columnar cactus), while the latter is cultivated in Mexico in tight lines to create living fences.

VARIETY AND TYPES

Here are a few species of Pachycereus that have been recognised to date, including the monstrous and crested forms. Check out our online shop to find them!

  • P. grandis
  • P. lepidanthus
  • P. pecten-aboriginum
  • P. pecten-aboriginum cristatus
  • P. pringlei
  • P. pringlei cristatus
  • P. schottii monstruosus
  • P. tepamo
  • P. weberi
  • P. grandis
  • P. lepidanthus
  • P. pecten-aboriginum
  • P. pecten-aboriginum cristatus
  • P. pringlei
  • P. pringlei cristatus
  • P. schottii monstruosus
  • P. tepamo
  • P. weberi

TIPS FOR GROWING

Pachycereus are less popular among cactus-lovers, who tend to prefer small, odd, tiny cacti instead of big ones. However, Pachycereus are beautiful plants, with their flowers all along the stems, and it’s worth to choose them also because they are very easy to grow and very long-lived.

Here are our cultivation tips:

  • Choose a very bright location. In temperate climates, they also adapt to full sun.
  • Pachycereus can’t stand cold: it’s advisable to keep it always a few degrees above O°C.
  • Water regularly every 3-4 days in spring and summer and stop watering completely in winter.
  • Use a standard soil for cacti or a mix of peat and sand. The important thing, as always, is that the substrate used allows optimal drainage to avoid water stagnation.
  • Use a specific product for cacti. It is sufficient to fertilize once a month during the vegetative period.
  • Choose wide and deep pots to support the growth of the plant. Repot every 2-3 years.

The main method of propagation is through cuttings, because the growth of shoots by seed is too slow. Branches can be used as cuttings, taking care to let the wound dry properly before planting them in a sandy bed.

Official Web Site:
www.giromagi.com

Italian Blog:
www.giromagicactus.com

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