Pilosocereus purpureus (2016)

PhotoBy Brian Wrather (June 2016)

One of the great things about attending the monthly meetings of the Henry Shaw Cactus and Succulent Society is the awarding of a specimen plant attendance prize. What a great opportunity to learn and grow something unexpected.

While I’m on the side of the succulent folks, having never met a cactus that I couldn’t kill, I thought I’d give this unusual cactus a try. It really looks like it has furry cocoons or fuzzy caterpillars or hairy tufts of fur growing out of it! I’m really trying to resist combing it. It’s that bizarre.

While researching Pilosocereus purpureus, I came up with very little. The genus Pilocereus or “hairy cereus” ranges from central to northern South America, growing tall and typically having a bluish body. Some Pilosocereus are extremely blue-bodied.

The majority of Pilosocereus live in areas with a dry winter season and a wet summer season, which should prove to be very accommodating to our climate during this plant’s outdoor time here in St. Louis.

P. purpureus blooms at night, and I’m guessing that it must be pollinated by moths or bats. After its appearance in the show this summer, I plan on planting it in the free root-run bed just to see what it will do. I’m hoping by the end of the year it will continue to resemble the guys from the 1970s rock band ZZ Top.