Photo Courtesy: WorldOfSucculents.com
By now, you might have become well aware of crested cacti. They are unique and beautiful. Cristation or ‘fascination’ is a process in which the cactus starts growing abnormally. Although it’s abnormal, it results into amazing shapes. A superb example is the crested San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi or Trichocereus pachanoi).
San Pedro Cactus
San Pedro cactus develops a beautiful fan-shaped stem as a result of cristation. Its color is green to bluish-green. It attains a height of 1 meter (3.3 feet) and over time, it forms striking brain-like mounds. It has whitish areoles that may form up to 7 spines of length 2 cm (0.8 inches) and color dark yellow to light brown. If Pachanoi blooms, the flowers are big, white and have extremely pleasant fragrance.
It’s tolerant to a wide range of conditions and can also stand more water and fertilization than most other cacti. Also, since it has small spines, it’s easier to handle than cacti with sharp spines. It’s good also for those who have kids and pets in their home who can be injured with sharp spines. Thus, it’s a very good species to grow for beginners.
While growing normally (without cristation), San Pedro cactus will grow into a usual tree shape with several side branches growing from its lower trunk. Cristation causes its main stem to take on a brain-like appearance. In place of standard vertical growth, a flattened tip with ribbon-like folds will form and fill out laterally. Cristation has been observed in minimum 100 different plant species till date.
San Pedro cactus is the second most famous mescaline cactus after peyote. Its use for ritualistic purposes is supposed to date back thousands of years. It’s a sacred symbol among various tribes of its native habitat, which lies from the Andes of Peru to Bolivia to Ecuador.
This cactus is either consumed as a sludge-like drink or in powder form. The highest concentration of mescaline in San Pedro cactus is located just beneath its skin. Typically, to prepare the drink, the cactus is sliced into star-shaped silvers which are boiled in water for minimum 8 hours. Making the powder form is a more laborious process and can take days to prepare.
How to Grow and Care for San Pedro Cactus
Echinopsis can be easily grown from offsets, that tend to bunch around the bottom of the mother plant. Cut these offsets close to the stem at the narrowest possible place.
These cacti can also be rooted from cuttings. While growing from cuttings, let the freshly taken cuttings dry out a bit on a paper towel. After a few days to a few weeks, depending on the size of the cut surface, the cut surface should have dried out and create a callous or slightly rough opening. Once such a callous is created, you can place the cutting in a rooting mixture of a quick draining cacti soil.
If the conditions of your area are favorable for growing cacti and succulents, you can grow the San Pedro cactus successfully without much of hard work.
Like several other cacti, this cactus too prefers a drying period between waterings, even to the extent where they wilt a bit. However, while watering you should water deeply. After watering, the plant will look noticeably plump. However, there should not be extended sogginess and sitting water. The cactus will also need fertilizers during its growing season for the best results.
E. pachanoi is frost hardy up to 5 degrees Celsius and you can water it several times during summer months, sometimes even as frequently as every two days if the top inch or two of the soil is dried out. During the winter, this cactus should be gradually acclimated to dry, dark, cool conditions to protect it from stretching that could harm its aesthetics and structural integrity.
While breaking dormancy in the spring, an opposite process of gradually introducing the factors required for growth may be useful for the same reason.
For optimal color, the San Pedro cactus should be placed in partial shade instead of full sun. the soil should be rich with organic nutrients and minerals and well-draining.
So, have you started looking for Echinopsis pachanoi f. cristata?