Pilocereus (2003)

By Eric Driskill (October 2003)

Pilocereus is a genus of columnar cacti found from Mexico into South America. Its name was derived from the Latin pilosus, hairy, and thus hairy cereus. This is similar to the Greek pilos, or felted, from which the name pilocereus was derived.

Pilocerei are characterized as having abundantly woolly, flowering areoles near the tips of their stems that produce night-flowering, bat-pollinated blossoms in summer. The flowers have fleshy, naked pericarpels and floral tubes.

In my experience, pilocerei are not difficult to grow. I water them with most of my other summer growers with no special attention. I winter them with everything else down to about 40-45 degrees.

These plants are true crowd pleasers. I have two P. pachycladus, which are both a beautiful, powdery baby blue. These two plants are often commented on when I show off my plants. One just can’t resist touching them to see if they are real. Beware, however, that beautiful, powdery baby blue rubs right off with the touch of a finger.

The color and hair alone are enough to start a conversation about these columnar cacti, but pollinated by bats – how cool is that? Does anyone know how to coax bats into a greenhouse?

I have been fortunate to see both plants flower. The flowers open in the early evening and close up with the light of morning. They last a few short days and abruptly fall off, leaving little trace they had ever been there. It is enough, however, to keep you visiting your plants at night when you see the blooms coming.

For a truly beautiful plant, I would encourage you to add a pilocereus to your collection.