San Pedro - Trichocereus pachanoi : Botanical Description

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San Pedro Cactus

Scientific Name: Echinopsis pachanoi
Synonym:Cereus pachanoi, Trichocereus pachanoi

Trichocereus pachanoi

Body: Described in the Cactus and Succulent Journal (US), Vol. 70, No.
1:32-39, James D. Mauseth & Roberto Kiesling.

- B76, BR63 /Agurell 69.2
Body: Numerous branches, more or less tree-like to 19.5' (6m.) high.

Stems bluish-green, slightly frosted when young, dark green when older.

Ribs: [4-]6-8 with a deep, horizontal depression above the areole.

Areoles/Spines: Spines often wanting, from 3-7 dissimilar, dark yellow to
brown to .75" (2cm.) long when present.

Flowers/Fruit: Very fragrant, night blooming white flowers to 9" (23cm.).

Distribution: From 6500-10,000' (2000-3000m.), Chanchan valley, Ecuador.

Trichocereus pachanoi: Trichocereus pachanoi is often know as the San Pedro cactus, but has numerous locality titles. Its ancient use has become altered by the integration of Catholic themes and pagan beliefs. It is still used to this date by native curanderos in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Often made into the hallucinogenic beverage "cimora" which can also include Iresine, Brugmansia, Datura, Pedilanthus tithymaloides, and Isotoma longiflora. Frequently the Tropane containing Brugmansia aurea or B. sanguinea are added. It is not certain if these plant additions increase the effects of the mescaline present or simply add a new component to the experience. Reports over the last few years seem to suggest that a natural mono amine oxidase inhibitor can be safely used to inhibit the mescaline destroying enzyme MAO, thereby allowing dosages to be halved for similar effect. The mescaline concentrations are 25 mg. per 100 grams of fresh material, but this can be quite variable as is shown by a 2.0 level of mescaline being found in a dried sample. This species is by far one of the best of grafting stocks and is often the base stock seen in numerous publication. Rib number is quite variable, ranging generally from 5 to 8, though occasionally the 4 ribbed "Cactus of the Four Winds" can be observed, but apparently 4 ribbed growth is an anomaly and the plant returns to more ribs after a few inches of growth. The addition and subtraction of ribs during growth is quite common. Crestate and monstrose specimens can occasionally be found. I have also had the fortune of seeing a variegated T. pachanoi. This plants use as an hallucinogen is becoming much more common around the world and its use in grafting by members of the Native American Church could help save the natural populations of  Lophophora williamsii.

1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 11 3-methoxytyramine, 3-demethylmescaline
3-hydroxy-4,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine 3,4-dimethoxyphenethylamine
3,4-dimethoxy-5-hydroxyphenethylamine 3,5-dimethoxy-4-hydroxyphenethylamine
4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenethylamine Anhalonidine Anhalinine Hordenine Mescaline Tyramine
Pellotine   See: List of Alkaloids

All information here, is from The Narcotic and Hallucinogenic Cacti of the New World By Michael S. Smith

Recommended Temperature Zone: sunset: 16,17,21-24
USDA: 8b-10

Frost Protection: Hardy to 15°F (-10°C)
Heat Tolerance: Light shade in Phoenix
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Origin: Mountains of Ecuador and Peru, between 5000 and
9000 feet elevation (1500m and 2700m)
Growth Habits: Multi-stemmed columnar cactus, up to 20 feet
tall by 6 feet spread (6 by 1.8 m)
Watering Needs: Little water when established
Propagation: Cuttings, seeds

Flower: White
Blooms: Summer
Light: Direct sun or Shade
Height: 1'-10'
Temp: 90-30 deg F

The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances                            Note: the ribs are not thin.
by Richard Rudgley                                                                                                 
Little, Brown and Company (1998)

The San Pedro cactus is the name given to psychoactive species of the genus Trichocereus (T. pachanoi, T. peruvianus) which comprises about thirty species, mainly found in the Andes. It is a large columnar cactus that grows up to heights of twenty feet and it contains mescaline, as does the well-known peyote cactus. The San Pedro cactus has also been found to have other psychoactive alkaloids. The mescaline seems to be most highly concentrated in the skin, which can be peeled, dried and made into a powder for consumption.

The usual native preparation of the cactus involves boiling slices of the stem for a number of hours and then, once cooled, the resulting liquid is drunk. Sometimes the San Pedro is used in conjunction with other psychoactive plants, such as coca, tobacco, Brugmansia and Anadenanthera. The hallucinogenic properties of its traditional use, including aguacolla, cardo, cuchuma, gigantón, hermoso, huando and, of course, San Pedro.

Like many other of the entheogenic substances used in the aboriginal religions of the Americas, the use of the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus is ancient and its use has been a continuous tradition in Peru for over 3,000 years. The earliest depiction of the cactus is a carving which shows a mythological being holding the San Pedro. It belongs to the Chavín culture (c. 1400-400 BC) and was found in an old temple at Chavín de Huantar in the northern highlands of Peru, and dates about 1300 BC. A particularly surprising discovery was made by a Peruvian archaeologist named Rosa Fung in a pile of ancient refuse at the Chavín site of Las Aldas near Casma; namely what seem to be remnants of cigars made from the cactus. Artistic renderings of it also appear on later Chavín artefacts such as textiles and pottery (ranging from about 700-500 BC). The San Pedro is also a decorative motif of later Peruvian ceramic traditions, such as the Salinar style (c. 400-200 BC), the Nasca urns (c. 100 BC-AD 700). It has also been proposed that a recurrent snail motif in Moche art represents a mescaline-soaked snail which has partaken of the San Pedro. If this is the case then the snail may be added to the list of animals having psychoactive properties.

Not surprisingly, considering their general contempt for native life and particularly the use of psychoactive plants, European missionaries were very negative when reporting the use of the San Pedro. Yet a Spanish missionary, cited by Christian Rätsch, grudgingly admitted the cactus' medicinal value in the midst of a tirade reviling it:

It is a plant with whose aid the devil is able to strengthen the Indians in their idolatry; those who drink its juice lose their senses and are as if dead; they are almost carried away by the drink and dream a thousand unusual things and believe that they are true. The juice is good against burning of the kidneys and, in small amounts, is also good against high fever, hepatitis, and burning in the bladder.

An account of the cactus by a shaman is in radical contrast to this rather contemptuous view: the drug first ... produces ... drowsiness or a dreamy state and a feeling of lethargy ... a slight dizziness ... then a great 'vision', a clearing of all the faculties ... it produces a light numbness in the body and afterward a tranquillity. And then comes detachment, a type of visual force ... inclusive of all the senses ... including the sixth sense, the telepathic sense of transmitting oneself across time and matter ... like a kind of removal of one's thought to a distant dimension.

The entheogenic status of the cactus remains as strong today as it always was. Not only do its uses in shamanic trances and healing sessions continue but it is also used to combat more recent problems such as alcoholism. The peyote cactus used widely by the North American Indians is also considered a medicine against alcoholism and this parallel is all the more striking as both cacti contain mescaline.

( San Pedro ) A common ornamental cactus which is still widely available for landscaping from local nurseries, particularly in desert states. Known to the natives as the sacred Cactus of the four winds. This plant is native to the western slopes of the Andes of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador were it can grow to over 5 meters. An extremely hardy cactus it does well in colder climates as it grows in the wild at altitudes of up to 3000 meters. It is very fast growing, averaging up to a half meter a year of new growth. When mature, the plants are large and multi-branched from the base, growing as a large shrub when older. A columnar shaped Cactus, with 4 - 8 broad and rounded ribs, 6 or 7 being the most common. Very rare is the 4 ribbed variety, which is highly prized among the Indians. The plant is also characterized by having 1 - 4 small spines per areole, dark yellow or brown in color.

The alkaloids present, including the majority of mescaline reside in the first 1 cm of skin. The green chlorophyl containing tissue under the skin appears to be where the majority of the alkaloids accumulate. The adjacent white tissue is low in, or totally lacking those active ingredients. The woody core is also considered esentially free of active alkaloids.( May contain some alkaloids that might alter the effects of ingestion ).

Old specimens can have beautiful night-blooming flowers to 22 cm across that have a lovely smell reminiscent of " beach-nut gum " . Unfortunately it is difficult to get to bloom, especially in northern latitudes. This Cactus grows best in mineral rich, well-drained soil containing some organic matter. Enjoys bright, but not full Sun and can tolerate abundant watering, does well indoors in pots. Natural habitat is in soil rich in humus and minerals, adequate rainfall, and maximal exposure to sun and wind. This species is also popular as grafting stock for smaller, slower growing cacti.

Used traditionally in divination, diagnosis of disease, finding lost or stolen property, and to possess another persons soul. A form of the original San Pedro religion still survives to this day, around Huacananda, Peru.
There has been some suggestion that T. Pachanoi is merely a less sun tolerant and less spiny variant of the rarer T. Peruvianus. I do not agree with that assertion as both species can interbreed and many hybrids exist, one of which was probably used as the basis of that observation.

Body: Described in the Cactus and Succulent Journal (US), Vol. 70, No.
1:32-39, James D. Mauseth & Roberto Kiesling.


                          Center plant is San Pedro. Soil mix needs lime.

This picture above is a grafted specimen of Peyote on top of a San Pedro rootstock.

San Pedro (and Peruvians), Peyote, Mescaline : Archive Main : The Nook



                   Root nodes ^^^^^^^^^^  popping out of a cut base  -  Another in view just up here ^

Freshly rooted Pedro cutting ^^^


Posted by: Nanook Jan 16 03, 06:16 PM GMT
Yep wink.gif  - Next two pictures below are San Pedro with flower sets, still a couple of weeks from flowering, but that's what flower buds look like.

 I Got A Puppy!

Posted by: TimothyLeary Jan 16 03, 04:17 PM GMT
laugh.gif laugh.gif

Posted by: DirtyWOP Jul 07 03, 08:27 AM GMT is an unrooted cutting with a pup emerging......the pup wasn't there when the cut was taken. weird huh? 

Posted by: steveoi812 Jan 16 03, 05:34 PM GMT
Wow! Is that what they look like when they first appear? laugh.gif

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