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Peruvian Torch cactus
Top of columnar cactus with long white spines
Echinopsis peruviana
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Genus: Echinopsis
Species: E. peruviana
Binomial name
Echinopsis peruviana
(Britton & Rose)
Synonyms

Trichocereus peruvianus

Peruvian Torch cactus (Echinopsis peruviana syn. Trichocereus peruvianus) is a fast-growing columnar cactus native to the western slope of the Andes in Peru, between about 2000-3000 meters above sea level.

Contents

Description

Peruvian Torch (Trichocereus peruvianus) is found high in the Andean mountain deserts of Peru and Ecuador and is similar to the San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi) which is found in the same region. The human use of the cactus dates back thousands of years to the northern coast of Peru and the monks of a pre-Inca culture known as Chavín. They prepared a brew called "achuma", "huachuma" or "cimora" which was used during ritualistic ceremonies to diagnose the spiritual links to a patient's illness.

The active compound is 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine or mescaline which was reported at a concentration of 1.2% in the dried cactus. Besides mescaline, it also contains varying phenethylamines and other substances in minimal proportions. Today it is still used by Curanderos (medicine men) of northern Peru.

Growth

The plant is bluish-green in colour, with frosted stems, and 6-8 broadly rounded ribs; it has large, white flowers. It can grow up to 7 meters tall, with stems up to 20 cm in diameter; it is fully erect to begin with, but later possibly arching over, or even becoming prostrate. Groups of 6-8 honey-coloured to brown rigid spines, up to 4 cm in length, with most about 1 cm, are located at the nodes, which are evenly spaced along the ribs, up to approximately 2.5 cm apart.

Variant

A short-spined variant which is nearly identical in appearance to its relative, Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro cactus), is known. It is therefore possible that many misidentified plants are being sold (both as Peruvian Torch and as San Pedro), but since local variations as well as hybrids do exist (both cultivated and natural), this will obviously make proper identification difficult.

Cultivation

USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-12[1]

Echinopsis peruviana can be propagated from either seeds or cuttings.[1]

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Propagation from cuttings

Like many other plants, Echinopsis peruviana can be propagated from cuttings. The result is a genetic clone of the parent plant.[2] For example, the top 15 cm end of a cactus column can be cleanly removed with a knife. The cutting can be left to heal for about two weeks in the scattered or indirect light, by laying it upon its side. Be aware that it should be kept away from away from excessive moisture that will encourage growth of an opportunistic infection and receive good airflow at this time. The plant will heal by forming a calloused seal to withstand bacterial and fungal attack such as mold. The unrooted cutting can be either kept upright in a propped up position for an extended period of time (2+ years) without harm . Often roots will emerge from the lowest point of the plant between 3–6 months time. Rooting hormone is not required and its use may damage the soft tissues of the plant, giving rise to bacterial or fungal rot that may kill the clone.

Cuttings may be planted after the formation of a callous and before the emergence of roots in either a small pot or directly n the ground. Cuttings should be set far enough below the surface of the soil to ensure stability until the root network is formed as well as access to moisture.

Light requirements

While a cutting is establishing its root system, it should be kept protected from extremes in both light and heat. New growth will generally signal the development of a root system and the need to start making the reintroduction into more direct light. Insufficient light will result in undesirable narrow and elongated growth from the tip while too much direct light (especially noonday direct sun) may result in a burning of the new growth at the center apex and the deforming of the plant. Proper light will mimic the mountain sids native to this and other Echinopsis species. 5 hours of direct sunlight with several hours of bright indirect light seems to strike a good balance between growth and excessive hardening or yellowing due to stress.

Soil

Depending upon the local environmental conditions soil should well draining and able to hold enough moisture for a week or more without drying out. Any soil used should never be "rich" in nitrogen. These are easily identified as being dark in color and / or high in manure content. A good basic soil mixture will consist of a basic "cactus soil mix" supplemented with 25% washed sand and 35% perlite. Pots must be well draining and do not need to be large in order to support a extensive root network. Most beginning growers experience plant loss by root rot from using a composted soil mix that is high in nitrogen from manure in a heavy wood or peat moss matrix. This will usually compact with time. Watering will cause the microflora to turn to anaerobic respiration resulting in a change in soil Ph, killing the root system and eventual root rot.

Watering

Once established these pants will be able to handle large amounts of watering compared to other cacti genus's. Like other plants warm temperature and sunlight will result in rapid growth. Watering should take on a cycle between watering and keeping the soil moist (but not damp) with a short "drying out" period to keep soil microflora in check once every 10–14 days/ 5 days watering should be stopped or severely limited in the winter months when plant's go dormant.

Feeding

These cacti respond well to balanced feeding that can be augmented depending upon the growers desires. Overfeeding is not suggested as it will often result in burning the plant and microflora blooms.

Chemistry

It contains a number of psychoactive alkaloids, in particular the well-studied chemical mescaline, which it sometimes contains at higher levels than those of Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro cactus), although not as high as Lophophora williamsii (Peyote).

Mescaline content compared with other sacramental cacti (variations of content occur throughout all species):
Peruvian Torch - 300mg mescaline per 38 grams dried
Peyote - 300mg mescaline per 28 grams dried
San Pedro - 300mg mescaline per 100 grams dried

Subspecies

Echinopsis peruviana ssp. puquiensis (Rauh & Backeb.) C.Ostolaza Nano[3]

Varieties

Some varieties, with scientific invalid names, of Echinopsis peruviana are:

  • var. ancash (KK1688), San Marcos, Ancash, northwest Peru.
  • var. ayacuchensis (KK2151), southwestern Peru.
  • var. cuzcoensis (KK340), Huachac, Cuzco, southeastern Peru.
  • var. (H14192), Huntington, EE.UU.
  • var. huancabamba, Piura, northwest Peru.
  • var. huancavelica (KK242a), west central Peru.
  • var. huancayo (KK338), west central Peru.
  • var. huaraz (KK2152), Ancash, northwestern Peru.
KK242 vs. Standard Peruvian Torch Cactus
  • var. matucana (KK242) Lima, central west Peru.
  • var. puquiensis (KK1689), Puquio, Apurímac Region, southwestern Peru.
  • var. Rio Lurin (KK2147), Rio Rimac, Lima, west central Peru.
  • var. tarmensis (KK2148), Tarma, Junin, west central Peru.
  • var. trujilloensis, Trujillo, La Libertad, northwestern Peru.

Notes

References

  • James D. Mauseth, Roberto Kiesling, Cactus and Succulent Journal (US) 70 (1): 32-39
  • Michael S. Smith, The Narcotic and Hallucinogenic Cacti of the New World

External links


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