Lophocereus - Totem Pole, Whisker Cactus
DESCRIPTION: These cacti are natives of southern Arizona and Mexico. They form tall, columnar stems, which branch at the base to form a short trunk. L. schottii (Whisker Cactus) forms stems that can grow up to 23 feet high. They have five to nine ribs bearing white woolly areoles out of which grow about five conical spines. When the plant is ready to blossom, the upper part develops larger areoles with about twenty sharp, brush-like bristles. More than one nocturnal flower grows from each areole. They are 11/2 inches long and may be white or red. L. schottii var. monstrose (Totem Pole Cactus) is a naturally occurring mutation, which, although sterile, continues to survive in the wild. When a stem breaks off or falls over, it roots along the sides. This mutation has variable, irregularly shaped, knobby-looking ribs with no spines only a few bristles. Its flowers are pink. These slow-growing cacti are suitable for growing as landscape plants, in greenhouses, outdoor containers, and in a window garden.
POTTING: These cacti require a minimum temperature ranging from 42º to 48º F. These plants will tolerate extreme sun and heat, but not extended periods of frost. They will tolerate severe drought if they have a large colony of stems. Grow them in rich, porous, sandy soil and let their soil dry out between waterings. If potted, repot in the spring if their roots become cramped. Generally, they should be repotted every other year in order to provide fresh soil. However, this doesn't necessarily mean they'll need larger containers. Fill about a quarter of the pot with broken crocks, gravel, etc. to promote good drainage. Firm the potting soil. After repotting, do not water for a week or more.
PROPAGATION: L. schottii can be increased by seeds or cuttings. L. schottii monstrose can be increased by cuttings, which will take root in a minimum temperature of 70º F. Seeds may be sown in containers filled with a general-purpose cactus and succulent potting mix. Sprinkle the seeds evenly over the surface of the compost. Cover the seeds lightly with some grit, moisten the container and place in an area with high humidity and warmth. Transplant the seedlings when they are large enough to handle. Waiting too long until they are overcrowded can cause rot. Gently separate them so as not to damage the delicate roots. Transplanting will be easier if the soil is slightly moist. Seedlings can be potted singly or with several to a pot. They seem to do better if a few are grown together than by themselves. Cuttings of healthy shoots can be taken in the spring, Cut the stem with a sharp, sterile knife just above a bud or shoot. Leave the cutting in a warm, dry place for a couple of days or weeks (depending on how thick the cutting is) until a callus forms over the wound. Once the callus forms, the cutting may be inserted in a container filled with firmed cactus potting mix topped with a surface layer of coarse grit. They should be placed in the coarse grit only; this prevents the cut end from becoming too wet and allows the roots to penetrate the rich compost underneath. The cuttings should root in 2 to 6 weeks.
VARIETIES: L. schottii & var. monstrose.
Go see DICTIONARY OF BOTANICAL NAMES.
Back to our botanical home page.