Pachgerocereus orcuttii (2014)

PhotoBy Mike Cushner (November 2014)

When I saw the tag with the name of the attendance prize that I won (thanks, HSCSS) it took me by surprise – Pachgerocereus orcuttii. This genus was new to me. So, after a little time on the computer and a visit to (thanks, Pam), I found Pachgerocereus orcuttii (Brandegee) Moran. That genus was alien to me, but with that, I started my search to understand the plant and its origins.

It turns out that this is a naturally occurring intergenetic hybrid between Pachycereus pringlei and Bergerocereus emoryii. These “parent” species are very different – the former being huge and robust, the latter typically less than 4 feet in height and 2 inches in diameter. These species grow in close proximity to each other in Baja California south of the town of El Rosario.

The species, named for Charles Russell Orcutt, an early 20th century American plant collector in western deserts, grows to at least 12 feet tall. Based on photos I’ve seen, it tends to clump from the base. Individual stems of P. orcuttii can reach 5 inches in diameter.

In cultivation, P. orcuttii – also known as Pachycereus orcuttii or X Pacherocereus orcuttii – has been reported to be hardy to 28 degrees F and to flower in spring. The flowers are typically yellow and are several inches wide. However, one report tells of greenish-brown flowers. The flowers can produce viable seed in heavily spined fruit that result in offspring very similar in appearance to the mother plant.