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STENOCEREUS thurberi

Image of Stenocereus thurberi

James H. Schutte

Family

Cactaceae

Botanical Name

STENOCEREUS thurberi

Plant Common Name

Organ-pipe Cactus

General Description

This large multi-stemmed, columnar cactus is the signature species of Arizona's Organ Pipe National Monument. There it is found in conjunction with the great Saguaro cactus, mesquite and ocotillo. Organ pipe also exist in Sonora and Sinaloa Mexico as well as Baja California. It survives primarily on summer rains and requires dry, mild winters with little frost.

This common name of this species is derived from the fact it forms clusters of large, upright stems that resemble organ pipes. It takes many years for specimens to reach this size and multi-stemmed appearance. Each of the, unbranched columnar stems have 12 to 19 closely spaced ribs. The ridge lines of the ribs are dotted with spine clusters (areoles) each featuring star shaped blooms of 1 to 3 gray to black central spines and 7 to 9 smaller radials.

Organ pipe blooms in spring bearing pinkish lavender buds that open to show large, white, funnel-shaped flowers. They open at dusk to lure the night fliers of the southwestern deserts. These remain open all night though the following day to allow day pollinators, like bees and hummingbirds, to have a chance to visit the blooms. The flowers are restricted to the upper parts of the stems and followed by bright red, edible fruits with carmine pulp that mature by midsummer. These are just one of the many products these plants provide the indigenous desert tribes’ people of the Seri and Papago.

Full, hot sun and perfectly drained soil is necessary for good health. Container grown specimens should be watered sparingly in summer and none in winter. This is a truly beautiful cactus for southwestern desert gardens in areas with nearly subtropical winter climates. They are slow growing, so large plants are quite expensive. Due to their preference for the unusual isolated summer rainstorms and a dry winter, this cactus does not grow well outdoors outside of its natural area of distribution.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • Sunset Zone

    9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    10'-22' / 3.0m - 6.7m

  • Width

    4'-8' / 1.2m - 2.4m

  • Native To

    Southwestern United States, Mexico

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Lavender

  • Fruit Color

    Red

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Houseplant, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Hummingbirds