If you have "no place to go," come here!

Plantidote of the Day 2012-11-05

twig's picture

san pedro cactus flower

Trichocereus pachanoi

San Pedro cactus

This is why I love cactus -- the flowers. Most of the year, you have a plant that's pretty much untouchable, and often isn't all that attractive to begin with. And then one day, you look outside and holy moly, the thing has just produced one of the most extraordinary flowers you've ever seen -- out of nowhere!

Actually, out of nowhere is not completely accurate. San Pedros do produce a "bud" that looks like a round, fuzzy, gray cat toy. You can see a bit of the bud at the base of the flowers in this previous Plantidote. This year's flower, which is about 4" across, is at nose level, and the fragrance is subtle and beautiful, the way a flower should smell.

In spite of the amazing flowers, San Pedros are best known as the source of mescaline, which has a long history of medicinal use (So there, DEA!). From the Medicine Hunter website:

Known also as the “cactus of the four winds,” San Pedro is one of the most ancient of sacred plants in South America. The oldest known archaeological evidence of its use dates back to 1300 B.C. San Pedro is considered a potent medicine, useful in treating a very broad range of physical, emotional and mental disorders, and with applications for treating addictions.

If you're a cactus person, these plants are so easy to grow, it's ridiculous. Here are some guidelines.


Readers, please send twig ( images and stories for the ongoing Plantidote of the Day series. In exchange, you'll win undying fame in the form of a hat tip! Plants growing in your garden, your house, or neighbor's yard, plants from the forest or farmers' market, plants you preserved, plants you prepared (wine; cider; tea; dried beans), plants you harvested (grains; chantrelles), plants you picked (flowers), plants you dried (herbs), plants you covet or hope to grow someday. Herbal remedies, propagation tips, new varieties, etc.. And if you can, include some solid detail about the plant, too -- a story, the genus and species, or where you got the seeds, or the recipe, or your grandmother gave it to you. Or challenge us with a "Name That Plant" mystery entry ... And please feel free to add corrections and additional information in the comments.

Click on the image for the full-size version. Click here to see the entire series.

No votes yet


Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

we'll be visiting Ecuador next fall, so there's a chance that we'll get to see one of these beautiful cactus flowers, 'in person.'

Thanks, twig.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

We'll be departing from Miami--you're welcome to meet us there! And if you've got a better camera than my Android 8 MP, please bring it. LOL!

Actually, it may be that I'll be able to convince Mr. Alexa to get another 35 mm camera before this trip (something went kaput with ours about ten years ago, and we never replaced it).

One "side benefit" would be that I'd have a camera to try and get a decent bird picture with, right? I've not completely given up, but I must say that I discouraged about getting a picture (with the Android).

My only hope is if the birds allow me to move even closer. I've managed to move (and sit) much closer to them than I've ever done.

The problem is that the camera "zoom" is not near as strong as it needs to be. At first I thought it would work. But I didn't realize that the feature on Androids that allow one to "enlarge" text as you view it, can't be "captured," in a camera shot." I would use the camera zoom, then enlarge the picture--but when I'd email it, it had shrunk back down to the size that the camera zoom alone, allows. I hope that makes sense.

But, we'll see. Haven't thrown in the towel, yet.