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Origin and Habitat: Morelos, Puebla, and Oaxaca, Central Mexico. Its distribution is clearly restricted to hot and dry regions of the Tehuacán Valley and the portion of the Balsas catchment that includes the northeast of Oaxaca and southeast of Puebla. It is also cultivated in home gardens elsewhere in Mexico and central America.
Altitude: Stenocereus stellatus grows at elevations of 500 to 2100 m asl.
Habitat and Ecology: The species inhabits tropical deciduous forest and xerophyllous scrub (thornscrub forest). Levels of precipitation vary between 300 and 800 mm per year; mean annual temperatures from 17 to 24°C; and soils derived from limestone, sandstone, volcanic rocks, or alluvial deposits.Other commonly associated plant species in the habitat include Coryphantha calipensis, Coryphantha elephantidens, Mammillaria carnea, Ferocactus recurvus, Opuntia pubescens, Schomburgkia superbiens, Bursera morelensis, Agave karwinskii, Agave lechuguilla and Yucca periculosa. Populations are abundant in both native and cultivated regions (species is dispersed by people). There are no threats, in addition this species is tolerant to some degree of habitat change.
- Stenocereus stellatus (Pfeiff.) Riccobono
Stenocereus stellatus (Pfeiff.) Riccobono
Boll. Reale Orto Bot. Palermo 8: 253. 1909
- Stenocereus stellatus (Pfeiff.) Riccobono
- Cereus stellatus Pfeiff.
- Lemaireocereus stellatus (Pfeiff.) Riccobono
- Neolemaireocereus stellatus (Pfeiff.) Backeb.
- Rathbunia stellata (Pfeiff.) P.V.Heath
- Stenocereus dyckii (Mart. ex Pfeiff.)
- Cereus dyckii Mart. ex Pfeiff.
- Stenocereus stellatus f. cristata hort.
ENGLISH: Organ Pipe Cactus
JAPANESE (日本語): 新緑柱 (Shinryokuchyuu), シンリョクチュウ (Shinryokuchyuu), ステノケレウス (Sutenokereusu)
SPANISH (Español): Pitayo, Xoconostle (Mexico), Jonocostle (fruto), Xoconochtli (Mexico), Pitaya, Pitaya de augusto, Tuna (fruto), Pitayo de octubre
Description: Stenocereus stellatus is a shrubby or treelike columnar cactus, branching at base, rarely branching above, 2-4 m high with short trunks. This species can be easily confused with Stenocereus treleasei.
Stems: Cylindrical, erect, 7-10 cm in diameter pale to dark bluish green.
Ribs: 8 to 12, up to 2 cm high low, obtuse, distinctly rounded, notched the areoles seated in the notches.
Areoles: 1 to 2 cm apart whitish.
Central spines: One to three, or sometimes more, slender often much longer than the others, flattened, one pointed downward, the others upward, 2 to 6 cm long dart brown or blackish at first, fading to grey.
Radial spines: The spine clusters are of 7-9 (sometime up to 13) radials about 12 mm long whitish-grey with dark tips, radiating star-like.
Flowers: Nocturnal, tubular to narrowly campanulate, appearing at or near the top of the plant, white or pale rose, with reddish sepals, about 4,5-6 cm cm long and 3-4 cm in diameter, tube scarcely flared, ovary bearing small scales subtending wool and bristly spines. Anthesis began around 8 on the evening and flowers open completely around 11 p.m. One hour later (around midnight), pollen starts being released but stigmatic lobes will be completely open only between 2 and 3 a.m. Flowers close between 7 and 9 on the mornining. Pollen and nectar is particularly abundant at night and attract pollinators like bats, hawkmoths and beetles.
Fruit: Red, spiny, globular, about 3 cm in diameter with spines falling early.
Phenology: Flowers are produced between June and September, and fruits in October.
Seeds: Dull, pitted.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Stenocereus stellatus group
Notes: Stenocereus stellatus exhibits considerable morphological variation, especially in fruit characteristics. Pulp colour, flavour, amount of edible matter, skin thickness, and spininess of the mature fruits are the most significant characteristics. According to archaeological information obtained in caves from Tehuacan Valley, S. stellatus has apparently been used by humans for more than 5,000 years. Manipulation of this plant species by humans thus appears to involve artificial selection. Cultivation is practised mainly in home gardens, where desirable phenotypes are vegetatively propagated and new variation is incorporated.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Curt Backeberg “Die Cactaceae: Handbuch der Kakteenkunde.” Volume 3, 1959
2) Theodore H. Fleming, Alfonso Valiente Banuet “Columnar Cacti and Their Mutualists: Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation” University of Arizona Press, 2002
3) Britton & Rose "The Cactaceae" 4: 273, 1923
4) Edward Anderson “The Cactus family” Timber Press, Incorporated, 2001
5) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey "The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass" Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug/2011
6) David R Hunt; Nigel P Taylor; Graham Charles; International Cactaceae Systematics Group. "The New Cactus Lexicon" dh books, 2006
7) Thomas H. Everett “The New York Botanical Garden Illustrated Encyclopedia of Horticulture” Volume 10 Taylor & Francis, 1982
8) Casas, A., B. Pickersgill, J. Caballero, and A. Valiente-Banuet. “Ethnobotany and the process of domestication of the xoconochdi Stenocereus stellatus (Cactaceae) in the Tehuacan Valley and La Mixteca Baja, Mexico.” Economic Botany 51:279-92. 1997.
9) Casas, A., J. Caballero, C. Mapes, and S. Zarate. “Manejo de la vegetacion, domesticacion de plantas y origen de la agricultura en Mesoamerica.” Boletin de la Sociedad Botdnica de Mex-ico 61:31-47. 1997
10) Casas, A., A. Valiente-Banuet, and J. Caballero. “La domesticacion de Stenocereus stellatus (Pfeiffer) Riccobono (Cactaceae).” Boletin de la Sociedad Bottinica de Mexico 62:129-40 1998.
11) Casas, A., J. Caballero, and A. Valiente-Banuet. “Use, management and domestication of columnar cacti in south-central Mexico: a historical perspective.” Journal of Ethnobiology 19:71-95. 1999
12) Casas, A., J. Caballero, A. Valiente-Banuet, J. A. Soriano, and P. Davila. “Morphological variation and the process of domestication of Stenocereus stellatus (Cactaceae) in central Mexico.” American Journal of Botany 86:522-33. 1999
13) Casas, A., A. Valiente-Banuet, A. Rojas-Martinez, and P. Davila. “Reproductive biology and the process of domestication of Stenocereus stellutus (Cactaceae) in central Mexico.” American Journal of Botany 86:534-42. 1999
14) Bravo Hollis, “Las Cactaceas de Mexico” 1978
15) Arias, S. & Zavala-Hurtado, A. 2013. Stenocereus stellatus. In: IUCN 2013. “IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.” Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 27 March 2014.
Cultivation and Propagation: Stenocereus stellatus is easy to grow but not very cold hardy (Resistant as low as -2°C for a short time).
Growth rate: It produces good amounts of growth each year if kept well fed and watered throughout the warmest months, particularly if it has been acclimatised to accept full sun. It will make clumps given the best conditions.
Soils: It likes very porous fertile cactus mix soil.
Repotting: Use pot with good drainage.
Watering: Water regularly in summer, but do not overwater (Rot prone), keep dry in winter.
Fertilization: Feed with a high potassium fertilizer in summer.
Hardiness: Reputedly sensitive to frost , but less so if kept on the dry side prior to, and during, cold weather (hardy to -2° C for short periods). However warmth throughout the year will increase the grower's success (8-12°C during rest season). During winter month, put them in a cool luminous place and encourage them to enter winter dormancy by withholding water and fertiliser over the winter as they will etiolate, or become thin, due to lower levels of light.
Exposition: Outside full sun, inside need bright light, and some direct sun. Tends to produce a dense white bloom in strong light, which encourages also flowering and spine production.
Uses: It is an excellent plant for container growing. It always looks good and stays small. It look fine in a cold greenhouse and frame or outdoor in a rockery.
Traditional uses: Stenocereus stellatus is cultivated for its a sourish edible fruit called xoconochtli or Joconostle, and is much relished.
Pests & diseases: It may be attractive to a variety of insects, but plants in good condition should be nearly pest-free, particularly if they are grown in a mineral potting-mix, with good exposure and ventilation. Nonetheless, there are several pests to watch for:
- Red spiders: Red spiders may be effectively rubbed up by watering the plants from above.
- Mealy bugs: Mealy bugs occasionally develop aerial into the new growth among the wool with disfiguring results, but the worst types develop underground on the roots and are invisible except by their effects.
- Scales: Scales are rarely a problem.
- Rot: They are susceptible to fungal diseases if overwatered, but are not nearly as sensitive as many other cacti, especially in warm weather. If kept damp through cold periods, they will invariably suffer. However rot is only a minor problem with cacti if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much.
Propagation: Division, direct sow after last frost. The seeds are quite easy to germinate and grow. Seeds germinate in 7-14 days at 21-27° C in spring, remove the glass cover gradually as the plants develops and keep ventilated, no full sun for young plants! To make a cutting twist off a branch and permit it to dry out a couple of weeks, lay it on the soil and insert the stem end partially into the soil. Try to keep the cutting somewhat upright so that the roots are able to grow downward.
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