Trichocereus Cacti (New Designation: Echinopsis)
The genus Trichocereus, consists of about thirty different columnar type plants that have been clumped into the genus Echinopsis in 1974, creating what is now one of the largest collection of species yet clumped together. The name San Pedro is considered a synonym for any of the psychoactive cacti within the genus Trichocereus. There are actually ten known species within the genus that are known to carry mescaline as a primary alkaloid. The species known to contain mescaline as their primary alkaloids are Trichocereus bridgesii, Trichocereus cuzcoensis, Trichocereus fulvinanus, Trichocereus macrogonus, Trichocereus pachanoi, Trichocereus peruvianus, Trichocereus taquimbalensis, Trichocereus tersheckii, Trichocereus validus, and Trichocereus werdermannius all of which have been used by indigenous tribes for over three thousand years.
Trichocereus Pachanoi & Peruvianus
The two most common cacti within the genus that are well known for their ceremonial use by native tribes of North America are, Trichocereus Pachanoi (San Pedro shown on left) & Trichocereus Peruvianus (Peruvian Torch shown on right).
Although San Pedro has been the term used for all the psychoactive members of the genus Trichocereus, the title of San Pedro is actually a synonym for the species Trichocereus Pachanoi consumed by the Native Indians of Peru. The term Blue or Peruvian Torch more specifically refers to that of Trichocereus Peruvianus.
Trichocereus Peruvianus grows some of the most incredible spines for cacti enthusiasts to admire and actually seem to grow thicker offering more body weight when compared to either the T.pachanoi. The needles of this cactus commonly grow to over ten centimeters long so great care is needed when replanting or cutting. When it comes to mescaline containing plants this species is said to offer the greatest bang for the buck with equal percentages of mescaline gram per gram to that of Lophophora Williamsii (peyote).
Trichocereus peruvianus, pachanoi and bridgesii are some of the easiest cacti to grow because they can take a lot of abuse, are generally somewhat cold hardy down to about 30 degrees F, more accurately zone 9a-11. They can take all the rain a Canadian summer can offer and seem to be quite resistant to most bug infestations in turn putting up well with most mistakes that growers make with cacti. Trichocereus seedlings also grow very fast as can be seen by the few in the image above reaching ten to sixteen inches in only three years.
The first question most often asked is about mix. I use an inert medium made of peat, perlite, and vermiculite. but this genus of plants seems to be able to grow in almost anything so feel free to experiment. My only advice is that you make sure that at least fifty percent of the material used is for drainage otherwise when the plant starts slowing down and getting ready for winter you can lose it to rot like any other cactus.
When growing any of the Trichocereus columnar species a very important step that is missed by most growers is the chopping of the stem. At about the ten month point of growth most seedlings will reach six inches in height or more. At this point a plant can actually be chopped and used as grafting stock but due to the young age of roots grafts will not last long. It is far better to wait for the plants to reach two years of age or better. Between the ages of six to ten months seedlings will be six to eight inches tall or better. At this point the stalks are still quite thin allowing the plant to fall over easily. The best thing to do at this point is actually chop the plant down at a point where the stem seems to be thickening. This would be anywhere from one inch to three inches off the ground surface. At this point allow the cut to dry and heal, and then replant it. The seedling will grow much thicker and stronger if this step is performed. For those who prefer to allow the plant to grow naturally, they will end up with a plant that falls over and eventually begins shooting pups up which will take a very long time to get a plant that stands on its own.
By its second year, Trichocereus peruvianus as well as pachanoi and bridgesii can be potted up into six or eight inch pots, and for best growth they will need potting up practically each year. Pups will even begin emerging from most three year old plants as can be seen on the plant pictured on the left in the above image.
Never be afraid to chop the top of these plants because they seem to almost need it. As soon as a cut heals, they will grow more branches. With each successive year one can notice these plants growing at a compounded rate in fact meaning that the bigger they grow the more they will grow each year as a result. Those who consume these plants state that ten to fifteen inches of growth each year is not uncommon which in turn offers the potential for at least two ceremonial adventures while having the plant still working towards your next adventure. Another very important reason for chopping the tops of these plants for re-potting is the fact that all three of these species will grow to between twenty and thirty feet tall if not attended to. This is probably far too big for most collectors that keep plants indoors or in a greenhouse.