Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum subsp. tehuantepecanus
P. pecten-aboriginum is native to Mexico Central, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast and Mexico Southwest where the plant grows in slopes and valley and spreads up to 1000 m of altitude.
P. pecten-aboriginum is a giant succulents belonging to the Cactaceae botanical family. The plant forms clumps and branches at the base. The stem is erect, thick, columnar, quadrangular, bright green, arranged in ribs and can reach up 20 m in height. The roots can explore laterally the soil up to 20 m of distance and they establish a symbiosis with some nitrogen fixing bacteria useful to survive in adverse conditions. The ribs are 10-12 and in young plants are covered by a close-set series of areoles with white glochids. The areoles bear 1-3 greyish central spines and 8-12 whitish and short radial spines. Blooming occurs from the late winter to the late spring and buds are borne on the areoles near the apex of the stem. The flowers are large, nocturnal, funnel-shaped, white in color with reddish brown exterior. The fruits are red and covered with yellow spines. The seeds are shiny black.
This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The plant needs a full light sun exposure but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light in the hottest periods. The plant does not like temperatures below 6°C so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. The soil should be mixed with pumice, clay and loam to allow the drainage and prevent the root rot, the plant is prone to it indeed. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly in Spring and Summer: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 7 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. If you want a faster and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for cacti; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.
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!
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