Pachycereus pringlei

Pachycereus pringlei, also known as Mexican giant cardon or elephant cactus, is a species of cactus native to northwestern Mexico in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Sonora. It is commonly known as cardón, a name derived from the Spanish word cardo, meaning "thistle".[2]

Large stands of this cactus still exist, but many have been destroyed as land has been cleared for cultivation in Sonora.

The fruit of this cactus was an important food for the Seri people in Sonora, who call the cactus xaasj.[3]

The flesh of this cactus contains alkaloids, and may have been used as a psychoactive plant in Mexico.[4]

A symbiotic relationship with bacterial and fungal colonies on its roots allows P. pringlei to grow on bare rock even where no soil is available at all, as the bacteria can fix nitrogen from the air and break down the rock to produce nutrients. The cactus even packages symbiotic bacteria in with its seeds.[5][6][7]

Pachycereus pringlei
Pachycereus pringlei in Baja California, Mexico
Scientific classification
P. pringlei (ቆልቋል kolkal)
Binomial name
Pachycereus pringlei

Cereus pringlei S.Watson[1]


Cardon is the tallest[1] cactus species in the world, with a maximum recorded height of 19.2 m (63 ft),[8] with a stout trunk up to 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter bearing several erect branches. In overall appearance, it resembles the related saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), but differs in:

  • fewer ribs on the stems
  • more heavily branched
  • branching occurs nearer the base of the stem
  • areoles and spination differ
  • the location of the blossoms, lower along the stem
  • fruit heavily spiny

Its flowers are white, large, nocturnal, and appear along the ribs as opposed to only apices of the stems.

Lifespan and growth

An average mature cardon may reach a height of 10 metres (30 ft), but individuals as tall as 18 metres (60 ft) are known.[9] It is a slow-growing plant [10] with a lifespan measured in hundreds of years, but growth can be significantly enhanced in its initial stages by inoculation with plant growth-promoting bacteria such as Azospirillum sp.[11][12][13] Most adult cardon have several side branches that may be as massive as the trunk. The resulting tree may attain a weight of 25 tons.[14]


Pachycereus pringlei cardon sahueso

P. pringlei

Pachycereus pringlei stand forest

Field of P. pringlei

Pachycereus pringlei with osprey nest

P. pringlei with an osprey nest atop

Cardon in flower

P. pringlei with blossoms


P. pringlei flowering

Cardon cactus fruit


Baja 2014 053 (14829360041)

husk of a fallen fruit


1.^ The tallest living cactus is a specimen of pachycereus pringlei. The tallest cactus ever measured was an armless Saguaro cactus which blew over in a windstorm in 1986; it was 78 feet tall.[15]


  1. ^ "Pachycereus pringlei". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  2. ^ Chamlee, Bob. "Cardón cactus, Pachycereus pringlei". Los Cabos Guide to Good Eating and More!. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  3. ^ *Felger, Richard; Mary B. Moser. (1985). People of the desert and sea: ethnobotany of the Seri Indians. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-0818-6.
  4. ^ Brown, Ethan (September 2002). "Professor X". Wired Magazine.
  5. ^ Puente, M. E.; Y. Bashan; C. Y. Li; V. K. Lebsky (September 2004). "Microbial populations and activities in the rhizoplane of rock-weathering desert plants. I. Root colonization and weathering of igneous rocks". Plant Biology. Stuttgart. 6 (5): 629–42. doi:10.1055/s-2004-821100. PMID 15375735.
  6. ^ Puente, M. E.; C. Y. Li; Y. Bashan (September 2004). "Microbial populations and activities in the rhizoplane of rock-weathering desert plants. II. Growth promotion of cactus seedlings". Plant Biology. Stuttgart. 6 (5): 643–50. doi:10.1055/s-2004-821101. PMID 15375736.
  7. ^ Walker, Matt (2009-08-19). "How cacti become 'rock busters'". BBC News.
  8. ^ Salak, M. "In search of the tallest cactus". Cactus and Succulent Journal. 72 (3).
  9. ^ (León de la Luz and Valiente 1994).
  10. ^ (Roberts, 1989)
  11. ^ (Bashan et al., 1999
  12. ^ Carrillo et al., 2000
  13. ^ Puente and Bashan, 1993
  14. ^ (Gibson and Nobel, 1986).
  15. ^ "Windstorm Fells 78-Foot Cactus--Tallest in World". Retrieved 2015-08-04.

External links

Media related to Pachycereus pringlei at Wikimedia Commons Data related to Pachycereus pringlei at Wikispecies


Acanthochronology is the interdisciplinary study of cactus spines or Euphorbia thorns grown in time ordered sequence (i.e. in series). Physical, morphological or chemical characteristics and information about the relative order or absolute age of the spines or thorns is used to study past climate or plant physiology.

For example, columnar cactus spines grow from the apex of the plant. After several weeks the spines stop growing and have been moved to the side of the stem. The old spines remain in place for decades as new spines are created at the continually growing apex. The result is that along each external "rib" of the cactus is a series of spines arranged in the order they grew in – the oldest spines are at the bottom and the youngest spines are at the top. These spines can be dated using bomb-spike Carbon-14 and isotopes of carbon (Carbon-13) and oxygen (Oxygen-18) may be used to infer past climate (e.g. precipitation or temperature), plant stem growth or plant physiology (e.g. photosynthetic processes). Alternatively, the width of small transverse bands in the spine may be used to infer daily information about cloud cover or plant productivity, although this remains to be tested. It has also been shown that regular waxy banding on the sides of a Costa Rican cactus (Lemaireocereus aragonii) indicate annual growth and can be used as temporal chronometers.

This sub-discipline of paleoclimatology and ecophysiology is relatively new. Acanthochronology is closely related to dendrochronology, dendroclimatology and isotope geochemistry and borrows many of the methods and techniques from these sub-disciplines of the Earth Sciences. It also draws heavily from the field of ecophysiology, a branch of Biology, to ascribe spine or thorn characteristics to particular environmental or physiological variables.The first peer-reviewed article to present and explain an isotope spine series was from a saguaro cactus in Tucson, Arizona. This and other work shows that radiocarbon and isotope time-series derived from spines can be used for demographic or palaeoclimate studies.

Boojum forest

The Boojum forest is an area in central Baja California near Catiavinia known for endemic flora so bizarre and grotesque in appearance that the area was named after mathematician/logician Lewis Carroll's imaginary landscape story, The Hunting of the Snark.

The area is characterized by almost no rainfall, as opposed to the two coasts of the Baja Peninsula, exotic plants such as Fouquieria columnaris, can grow up to 50 feet tall with an 18-inch diameter. Large rounded granitic boulders placed similar to those of ancient druid religious sites appear and so do the columnar cacti such as Ferocactus gracilis, huge fleshy red blooded (the sap is highly ferrous red) elephant trees, Bursera microphylla, huge endemic ocotillo (Fouquieria peninsularis) with flaming red flowered tipped ends, and the world's largest cactus, the columnar Cardon, Pachycereus pringlei.


A cactus (plural: cacti, cactuses, or less commonly, cactus) is a member of the plant family Cactaceae, a family comprising about 127 genera with some 1750 known species of the order Caryophyllales. The word "cactus" derives, through Latin, from the Ancient Greek κάκτος, kaktos, a name originally used by Theophrastus for a spiny plant whose identity is not certain. Cacti occur in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Most cacti live in habitats subject to at least some drought. Many live in extremely dry environments, even being found in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. Cacti show many adaptations to conserve water. Almost all cacti are succulents, meaning they have thickened, fleshy parts adapted to store water. Unlike many other succulents, the stem is the only part of most cacti where this vital process takes place. Most species of cacti have lost true leaves, retaining only spines, which are highly modified leaves. As well as defending against herbivores, spines help prevent water loss by reducing air flow close to the cactus and providing some shade. In the absence of leaves, enlarged stems carry out photosynthesis. Cacti are native to the Americas, ranging from Patagonia in the south to parts of western Canada in the north—except for Rhipsalis baccifera, which also grows in Africa and Sri Lanka.

Cactus spines are produced from specialized structures called areoles, a kind of highly reduced branch. Areoles are an identifying feature of cacti. As well as spines, areoles give rise to flowers, which are usually tubular and multipetaled. Many cacti have short growing seasons and long dormancies, and are able to react quickly to any rainfall, helped by an extensive but relatively shallow root system that quickly absorbs any water reaching the ground surface. Cactus stems are often ribbed or fluted, which allows them to expand and contract easily for quick water absorption after rain, followed by long drought periods. Like other succulent plants, most cacti employ a special mechanism called "crassulacean acid metabolism" (CAM) as part of photosynthesis. Transpiration, during which carbon dioxide enters the plant and water escapes, does not take place during the day at the same time as photosynthesis, but instead occurs at night. The plant stores the carbon dioxide it takes in as malic acid, retaining it until daylight returns, and only then using it in photosynthesis. Because transpiration takes place during the cooler, more humid night hours, water loss is significantly reduced.

Many smaller cacti have globe-shaped stems, combining the highest possible volume for water storage, with the lowest possible surface area for water loss from transpiration. The tallest free-standing cactus is Pachycereus pringlei, with a maximum recorded height of 19.2 m (63 ft), and the smallest is Blossfeldia liliputiana, only about 1 cm (0.4 in) in diameter at maturity. A fully grown saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) is said to be able to absorb as much as 200 U.S. gallons (760 l; 170 imp gal) of water during a rainstorm. A few species differ significantly in appearance from most of the family. At least superficially, plants of the genus Pereskia resemble other trees and shrubs growing around them. They have persistent leaves, and when older, bark-covered stems. Their areoles identify them as cacti, and in spite of their appearance, they, too, have many adaptations for water conservation. Pereskia is considered close to the ancestral species from which all cacti evolved. In tropical regions, other cacti grow as forest climbers and epiphytes (plants that grow on trees). Their stems are typically flattened, almost leaf-like in appearance, with fewer or even no spines, such as the well-known Christmas cactus or Thanksgiving cactus (in the genus Schlumbergera).

Cacti have a variety of uses: many species are used as ornamental plants, others are grown for fodder or forage, and others for food (particularly their fruit). Cochineal is the product of an insect that lives on some cacti.

Many succulent plants in both the Old and New World – such as some Euphorbiaceae (euphorbias) – bear a striking resemblance to cacti, and may incorrectly be called "cactus" in common usage.

Cardon cactus

Cardon cactus is a common name for several plants and may refer to:

Echinopsis atacamensis, a species of cactus native to South America

Pachycereus pringlei, a species of cactus native to northwestern Mexico


Cardón can refer to:

Cardón, Venezuela, a town in Venezuela

Echinopsis atacamensis, a species of cactus

Euphorbia canariensis, a cactus-like species of Euphorbia

Pachycereus pringlei, a species of cactus

Ceroid cactus

The term ceroid cactus (or sometimes just cereus) is used to describe any of the species of cacti with very elongated bodies, including columnar growth cacti and epiphytic cacti.

The name is from the Latin cēreus, wax taper (slender candle), referring to the stiff, upright form of the columnar species. Some species of ceroid cacti were known as torch cactus or torch-thistle, supposedly due to their use as torches by Native Americans in the past.The genus Cereus was first genus for such cacti and one of the oldest cactus genera. Its circumscription varies depending on the authority.

According to Cactiguide the word "cereus" was commonly and freely used to describe any tree-like cacti, although this general use of the word is regarded as misleading and the word ceroid or ceriform is preferred.

Cyrus Pringle

Cyrus Guernsey Pringle (May 6, 1838 – May 25, 1911) was an American botanist who spent a career of 35 years cataloguing the plants of North America. He is in the top five historical botanists for quantity of new species discovered — approximately 1,200 species, 100 varieties, twenty-nine genera, and four combinations.

The standard author abbreviation Pringle is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.

Haematoxylum brasiletto

Haematoxylum brasiletto, or Mexican logwood, is a species of tropical hardwood tree in the legume family, Fabaceae. It is known in its native Mexico and Guatemala as "palo de brasil" or "palo de tinto". The timber is used to make bows for stringed instruments, the manufacture of dyes and in ethnobotany.

List of culinary fruits

This list contains the names of fruits that are considered edible either raw or in some cuisines. The word "fruit" is used in several different ways. The definition of fruit for this list is a culinary fruit, i.e. "Any sweet, edible part of a plant that resembles fruit, even if it does not develop from a floral ovary; also used in a technically imprecise sense for some sweet or semi-sweet vegetables, some of which may resemble a true fruit or are used in cookery as if they were a fruit, for example rhubarb." Many edible plant parts that are true fruits botanically speaking, are not considered culinary fruits. They are classified as vegetables in the culinary sense (for example: the tomato, zucchini, and so on), and hence they do not appear in this list. Similarly, some botanical fruits are classified as nuts (e.g. brazil nut), and do not appear here either. Because of all this, this list is also not meant to be botanically correct with how the fruits are grouped together, instead, fruits are grouped together based on physical similarities (e.g. bananas are botanically a berry, but wouldn't commonly be called such, so they are not grouped with the other berries on this list).

List of edible cacti

This is a list of edible plants in the family Cactaceae.

Acanthocereus tetragonus, the sword pear,

Browningia candelaris,

Carnegiea gigantea, the Saguaro,

Cereus repandus - California and Florida

genus Corryocactus (also known as Erdisia), the tasty berrylike

C. brevistylis, C. pulquiensis, and C. erectus


C. robbinsorum and C. recurvata.

genus Echinocereus ("Strawberry Cactus")

E. engelmannii, E. bonkerae, E. boyce-thompsonii

E. enneacanthus, E. cincerascens, E. stramineus

E. dasyacanthus, E. fendleri and E. fasciculatus

E. brandegeei, E. ledingii and E. nicholii

E. engelmannii ("Strawberry Vanilla")

genus Echinopsis

South American species

E. (or T.) atacamensis, E./T. coquimbana and E./T. schickendanzii

genus Epiphyllum, the Orchid cactus

E. anguliger (also called Phyllocactus darrahii, said to be like gooseberries)

genus Epithelantha (the fruit of all species said to be edible)

genus Eulychnia

E. acida

genus Ferocactus

Ferocactus hamatacanthus

F. histrix ("borrachitos") and F. latispinus ("pochas")

genus Harrisia (of Florida and the Caribbean), the "Prickly Apples"

Harrisia martinii

NOTE: The following 5 are said to be "endangered endemic" :

H. aboriginum, H.simpsonii, H. adscendens, H fragrans and H. eriophora

H. pomanensis

Argentinian H. balansae

Genus Hylocereus

H. undatus, H. costaricensis, H. megalanthus, H. guatemalensis, H. polyrhizus and H. triangularis (aka "Dragon Fruits")

genus Mammillaria ("chilitos" as they look like tiny red chili peppers)

M. applanata, M. meiacantha, M. macdougalii, M. lasiacantha

M. grahamii, M. oliviae, M. mainiae, M. microcarpa, M. thornberi and many others

Myrtillocactus geometrizans ("garambulos", taste like less-acid cranberries)

genus Opuntia, the prickly pears

Opuntia engelmannii

Opuntia ficus-indica

Opuntia matudae

Opuntia fragilis

Opuntia basilaris

genus Pachycereus,

Pachycereus pringlei, the Cardon

P. schottii, the Senita and P. weberi, the Candelabro

genus Peniocereus,

Peniocereus greggii, the Arizona Queen of the Night

P. johnstonii and P. serpentinus

genus Pereskia

P. aculeata, the "Barbados gooseberry"

P. guamacho

genus Stenocereus (quite sweet, but prone to ferment; hence the "agria" [="sour"]))

S. fricii ("Pitayo de aguas"), S. griseus ("Pitayo de Mayo"), S. gummosus ("Pitahaya agria"

S. pruinosus ("Pitayo de Octubre"), S. montanus ("Pitaya colorada")

S. queretaroensis ("Pitaya de Queretaro"), S. standleyi ("Pita Marismena"), S. stellatus ("Xoconostle")

S. thurberi ("Organ Pipe Cactus", "Pitayo Dulce") and S. treleasi ("Tunillo")

List of flora of the Sonoran Desert Region by common name

The Sonoran Desert is located in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico in North America.

The Sonoran Desert Region, as defined by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, includes the Sonoran Desert and some surrounding areas. All of Sonora, the Baja California Peninsula, and the islands of the Gulf of California are included. Also included are parts of Sinaloa and Chihuahua, some Pacific islands off the coast of Baja California (excluding Guadalupe Island), and southern Arizona and southern California in the United States.This region has 4,004 species of plants from 1201 genera in 182 families. Many lack common names. Many have more than one common name, but only one is listed. Native and non-native taxa are included.

List of least concern plants

As of September 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists 6645 least concern plant species. 30% of all evaluated plant species are listed as least concern.

The IUCN also lists 131 subspecies and 118 varieties as least concern. No subpopulations of plants have been evaluated by the IUCN.

This is a complete list of least concern plant species, subspecies and varieties evaluated by the IUCN.

List of plants in the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

This List of plants in the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens is based on data published by the gardens and updated annually. The gardens collection includes nearly 2,000 different species and over half of these are succulents. The gardens are noted for their collection of species from the African Aloe genus.

List of psychoactive plants

A list of plants that are used as psychoactive drugs. Some of them have been used entheogenically for millennia. The plants are listed according to the substances they contain.


Pachycereus is a genus of 9–12 species of large cacti native to Mexico and just into southern Arizona, United States. They form large shrubs or small trees up to 15 m or more tall, with stout stems up to 1 m in diameter.

Pachycereus comes from the ancient Greek παχύς (pachys) meaning "thick" and the Latin cereus meaning "torch".

Selected speciesP. pringlei is the tallest cactus species in the world, with a maximum recorded height of 19.2 m.

SynonymyThese genera have been brought into synonymy with Pachycereus:

Backebergia Bravo

Lemaireocereus Britton & Rose

Lophocereus (A.Berger) Britton & Rose

Marginatocereus (Backeb.) Backeb.

Mitrocereus (Backeb.) Backeb.

Pterocereus T.MacDoug. & Miranda

Taxonomy of the Cactaceae

In 1984, the International Organization for Succulent Plant Study set up a working party, now called the International Cactaceae Systematics Group, to produce a consensus classification of the cactus family, down to the level of genus. Their classification has been used as the basis for systems published since the mid-1990s. Treatments in the 21st century have generally divided the family into around 125–130 genera and 1,400–1,500 species, which are then arranged in a number of tribes and subfamilies. However, subsequent molecular phylogenetic studies have shown that a very high proportion of the higher taxa (genera, tribes and subfamilies) are not monophyletic, i.e. they do not contain all of the descendants of a common ancestor. As of March 2017, the internal classification of the family Cactaceae remained uncertain and subject to change. A classification incorporating many of the insights from the molecular studies was produced by Nyffeler and Eggli in 2010.

× Pacherocactus

× Pacherocactus is a genus of shrubby cactus, with only one known species, × Pacherocactus orcuttii. It is a natural hybrid between Pachycereus pringlei and Bergerocactus emoryi, discovered near Rosario, Baja California, Mexico. The plant's generic name is formed from those of its parents (Pachycereus and Bergerocactus); sometimes it can be found listed as Pachycereus × Bergerocactus.

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