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Stenocereus thurberi (Organ Pipe Cactus)


Scientific Name

Stenocereus thurberi (Engelm.) Buxb.

Common Names

Organ Pipe Cactus, Pitayo Dulce (Spanish)


Cereus thurberi, Lemaireocereus thurberi

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Pachycereeae
Genus: Stenocereus


Stenocereus thurberi is a cactus with several narrow stems that rise vertically, growing from a single short trunk just above the ground level. These stems are up to 16 feet (4.9 m) tall and up to 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. They rarely branch but rather grow annually from the tip of the last growth. The mature plant can reach a width of 12 feet (3.7 m). Each stem has 12 to 19 ribs that bear dark brown to black spines that turn gray as it matures. It takes 150 years to reach maturity. The older plants produce white flowers annually, which are open at night and close by the morning and have a purple or pink tint to them. The flowers are funnel-shaped, up to 4 inches (10 cm) long and 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter. They usually grow from late spring to early fall. The plant also produces fruits about the size of a tennis ball.

Stenocereus thurberi - Organ Pipe Cactus

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USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Like most cacti, Cereus are fairly low-maintenance and hardy. Make sure they receive enough water without becoming waterlogged, especially during the summer, and fertilize them for the best results. If the roots have become black or overly soft, the cactus could be experiencing root rot. Cut away the affected parts and replant them. Most gardeners interested in cacti should be able to cultivate these without much problem.

It may become necessary to repot your Cereus if it outgrows its container. If so, make sure the soil is dry and then remove the pot. Knock away old soil and prune away any rotted or dead roots, then replace it in a new pot and backfill with fresh soil. Make sure not to overwater cacti planted in new pots, as this can lead to root rot. It should be left dry for about a week and then watered lightly.

These cacti propagate quite easily from cuttings. Simply sever a branch and replant in moist, well-drained soil. See more at How to Grow and Care for Cereus.


Native to Mexico and the United States.


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