Beth is an online writer and cacti enthusiast. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of cacti with her readers.
1. Trichocereus spachianus
Trichocereus spachianus and T. santiaguensis are, in fact, the same species, although the former is the more correct name. It is columnar in growth, but older plants will eventually form branches near the base of the stem. The stems themselves are mid-green and as they mature they become almost yellowish, giving the appearance of a golden trunk.
The number of ribs is extremely variable, although most cultivated specimens seem to have between 10 and 15. The size of the ribs varies, too, from plant to plant; some have very shallow, barely visible ridges and others have prominent, quite conspicuous ones. The spines are at first pale yellow but as they mature they turn brown and ultimately become quite white.
The radials are normally nine in number, but they can be more numerous in some varieties. They surround a solitary central spine, which is a little longer. The white nocturnal flowers are only produced on much older plants.
Of all the upright cereus, the Eriocerei are some of the most rewarding to grow. They are vigorous plants and for this reason, are frequently used as grafting stock for varieties which do not do well on their own roots.
Eriocereus jusbertii can be induced to flower when only five years old at a height of about 2 or 3 ft (60 to 90 cm). The stems are dark green with a tinge of purple in them and are surrounded by between four and six ribs in commercial specimens.
There is a curious difference between imported plants raised from seed and those which are struck as cuttings, the former adopting their characteristic upright habit only later in life, whereas plants taken from cuttings start growing upright straightaway.
In addition to flowering freely, this plant also has spines that are quite small, being produced together with a certain amount of wool in the areoles, which are set on the sides of the ribs at intervals of just under an inch (2.5 cm).
The flowers are very large and worth waiting for, greenish yellow in colour and over 6 in (15 cm) in length.
Eriocereus martinii is another variety which is frequently used for grafting but is not so floriferous as the previous species. It differs in having the areoles set upon quite prominent tubercles and in having much longer spines.
Haageocereus comprises a number of very attractive species that are chiefly remarkable for their highly coloured spines. The varieties available can be divided into two categories depending on the thickness and coarseness of the spines. Of the group with slender spines, Haageocereus chosicensis is by far the most common species in cultivation today, and is distinguished by its strongly coloured yellowish spines.
The Latin name of the latter refers to the rainbow like markings on the spines. The plant forms columns with slender stems, each surrounded by about sixteen dark green low ribs.
The spines, which range in colour from reddish brown to orange, are produced in large numbers from the closely set areoles, the central spines pointing slightly upwards.
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In their natural state in Peru, the species belonging to this genus form plants about 4 ft (1.25 m) high. Plants imported from the wild may have quite different coloured spines from home-grown plants of the same species.
The second group of Haageocereus is characterized by coarser spines and was once probably called Binghamia acrantha. This species has thicker stems, up to 3 in (8 cm) in diameter, and fewer ribs, normally not exceeding fourteen in number. These species also tend to produce yellowish hair at the areoles as well as the spines.
4. Cephalocereus palmeri
Cephalocereus palmeri is, a more rewarding cephalocereus to grow than the more frequently found C. senilis. It is considerably faster growing, and the stems with their many fewer ribs, numbering seven to nine, are more clearly visible, while the bluish tinge of the young growth can also be observed. In Eastern Mexico, where it grows wild, this species attains a height of nearly 20 ft (6 m) and carries numerous branches.
The most pronounced feature of the plant is the abundance of long white hairs produced all the way down the ribs from the areoles, which are well hidden by the hairs and normally set fairly closely together, often only half an inch (1 cm) apart. Beneath the hairs there are about ten radial spines. As the plant matures and grows taller the hairs at the base will start to disappear.
Other varieties of Cephalocereus which are similar to the species illustrated are:
- C. sartorianus, which differs in having fewer spines on the younger growth, seldom more than eight in number, and in having more distantly spaced areoles; and
- C. leucocephalus, which has up to 12 ribs and long wool. C. chrysacanthus is distinguished by its yellow spines.
5. Cephalocereus senilis
Cephalocereus senilis is well known as the old man cactus, and fulfills one of the commonest prejudices against cacti in that it is immensely slow growing; however, it is a popular species because of the long white flowing hairs that completely cover the numerous low ribs and closely set areoles.
it is a good idea to wash the long hairs occasionally in a mild solution made of soap flakes and water. The hairs can then be combed out and the plant stood in a sunny location to dry, otherwise, the hairs can become very matted and thoroughly unsightly. As stated earlier the plant is very slow growing, and it is unlikely that cultivated specimens will ever flower.
Specimens may be encouraged to grow a little faster by grafting them; such plants are often sold in shops. Unlike most other cacti, C. senilis does not develop the slightly woody trunks and this makes it especially prone to attacks of basal rot fungi such as Rhizoctonia; grafting on to a stronger growing rootstock such as Trichocereus will help to avoid this.
The Hylocereanae are climbing or sprawling plants whose older stems frequently develop aerial roots which support them in the wild. As a group they come from Mexico, Northern and Southern America and the West Indies and their appearance is broadly similar to one another.
Their name in Greek means forest cereus and this is a reference to their preferred environment in the wild. With the exception of Aporocactus and its hybrids, they generally benefit from staking and it is a good idea to grow them up a mossed stake which is kept moist.
A mossed stake is fairly easily made by binding pieces of sphagnum moss around a reasonably stout cane with P.V.C.covered wire. Hylocerei may also be grown against the wall of a greenhouse or conservatory and can even be trained, if required, like a fruit tree. Generally, this planting out encourages them to grow very freely and can help to induce early flowering in many cases.
It is also important to give these forest cereus a more humid condition in summer, and a warmer position in winter. This may not be so essential when the plants are bedded out but when grown in pots it is a good idea to bring them into the house in the winter rather than to leave them with all the other cacti in the greenhouse. Pot grown specimens will also benefit from the addition of some beech leafmould to the normal sandy soil that suits cereus as this gives it more texture.
7. Hylocereus trigonus
Hylocereus trigonus is a generally unremarkable plant whose main popularity lies in its use as grafting stock. But while the use of these grafting stocks may be of great use to the grower, since both grow profusely, their generally higher temperature and humidity requirements make them unsuitable stocks for most desert types of cactus.
The main distinction between the two species lies in the margins of the stems, those of H. undatus being horny while those of H. trigonus are not. In the wild, the sharply three angled stems can grow up to 30 ft (9 m) in length, sprawling over rocks and other bushes. The margins of the species are very wavy and the areoles, which carry about eight short spines, are borne on the crests of the undulations.
Because of their sprawling habit, they are not really suitable for collections with only limited space available, and they also need to reach a certain size before they will flower.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Joanne on April 22, 2012:
When do you water these cactus?