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CEPHALOCEREUS

Image of Cephalocereus

Maureen Gilmer

Family

Cactaceae

Botanical Name

CEPHALOCEREUS

Plant Common Name

Cephalocereus

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Experts have debated the contents of genus Cephalocereus to such an extent that its species change on a regular basis. For now there are 48 species which are distributed throughout the Western Hemisphere. However, the majority of them can be found in southern Mexico where they form dense, spectacular forests. The genus name is related to some species ability to produce cephallium or psedocephallium upon reaching adulthood. This unique growth doesn’t match that of the rest of the plant. It is a survival adaptation by which flowering can occur more more economically, which provides greater opportunity to reproduce later in life. While normally areoles producing flowers are separated by growth rings of succulent tissue, this tissue is absent in cephallia and rings are produced one on top of another. The result is a dense bristly growth that blooms heavily, but does not resemble other parts of the plant.

Species of Cephalocereus are columnar, erect cacti with up to thirty or more ribs. Some are columnar, others may produce branching arms. The stems are light green, becoming gray with age. Spines are so dense they obscure the stem beneath, shading it from high UV light exposure. Flowers are unarmed, medium sized and open at night into narrow floral tubes with scales and wool. These mature into oval fruit that contain small black seeds vital to wildlife, particularly birds within its range.

The most famous of all species is Cephalocereus senilis, the old man, which is endangered in the wild and rare at any size in cultivation. The largest forest species is Cephalocereus columna-trajani, also known as the white cardon is unique to Puebla, Mexico. Though a few other species are in cultivation they are uncommon. The rarity of these plants is in part due to their extreme sensitivity to water out of season, which makes them a challenge to cultivate in humid regions. In general, deep water Cephalocereus then allow them to dry out completely before watering again. Withhold moisture altogether during the darkest part of winter when they are dormant.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    12 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    3'-49' / 0.9m - 14.9m

  • Width

    6"-16" / 15.2cm - 40.6cm

  • Bloom Time

    Spring

  • Native To

    North America, Mexico

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Very Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

  • Habit

    Narrow Upright/Fastigiate

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Pink

  • Fruit Color

    Red

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Houseplant, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No