Coleocephalocereus (2011)

PhotoBy Eric Driskill (March 2011)

Coleocephalocereus is a genus made up of a dozen species, all endemic to Brazil. The name comes from the Greek koleos, “sheath,” and kephale, “head,” which is a reference to the cephalium. Most species in the genus are short and columnar, but one globose exception is C. aureus, which in my opinion is one of the nicer species. The genus Buiningia has been brought into synonymy with this genus.

Coleocephalocereus plants are either branching at the base or unbranched. They have between nine and 30 ribs with close-set areoles. Spination can be either weak or strong.

The most distinctive feature of the genus is the lateral cephalium, out of which come small, tubular white, red or yellow flowers. Unlike the cephaliums of melocacti, which are “properly” situated right on top of the plants, those of Coleocephalocereus cacti look as if they may have been the wax of a candle that spilled off the crowns of the plants down the bodies.

On the columnar species, this is not so unusual. In columnar genera such as Cephalocereus, Pachycereus and Pilosocereus, you can often see cephaliums running down the sides of the plants in more mature specimens. Coleocephalocereus aureus looks like it could be a notocactus/parodia or a rather spiny melocactus until the cephalium begins to develop. The cephalium starts on top but soon begins to travel or “melt” down the side of the plant.

One look at a few nice pictures of mature plants of this species, in bloom or not, will surely be enough to lead you to add Coleocephalocereus to your wish list. Although the genus is unusual in cultivation, with enough searching you will be able to locate sources to begin the additions to your collection.