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Plant Highlight: Echinopsis candicans

July 2006

(Synonym for this plant: Trichocereus candicans, Soehrensia candicans)

Among the plants included in the genus Echinopsis is a group which used to be considered a separate genus, Trichocereus.  These have large funnel-form flowers (usually white) and columnar stems.  In some cases, like the San Pedro cactus, the stems are tall and erect.  In other species, such as Echinopsis candicans, the stems initially grow upright, but sprawl to the side as they lengthen.  E. candicans sprouts new stems from the base, so eventually the plant gives the appearance of a cluster of stems radiating outward from a central growing point.

The large white flowers of Echinopsis candicans emerge in May-June, often coming in several successive flushes.  The buds, as with other species of Echinopsis, are furry.  As they emerge, they swell into enormous trumpet-like blooms about 6 inches across.  Most other species in the genus are unscented, but these are an exception and perfume the air with a delightful fragrance.  The blossoms are short-lived, but people visiting at the right time are often amazed to see a profusion of flowers which can almost completely cover the plant.

E. candicans comes from western Argentina, which does not experience the dry summers and wet winters which characterize California’s climate. However, it thrives here if given a modest amount of water during its summer growing period. It can endure temperatures down to the low twenties Fahrenheit without injury, and flowers reliably each spring.