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Peniocereus greggii var. greggii
(Night-blooming cereus, queen of the night, deer-horn cactus)

[taxon report][distribution map][all photos][line drawing]



Family: Cactaceae

Scientific Name: Peniocereus greggii (Engelmann) Britton & Rose var. greggii

Synonyms: Cereus greggii Engelmann var. greggii; Cereus greggii Engelmann var. cismontanus Engelmann

Vernacular Name: Night-blooming cereus, queen of the night, deer-horn cactus

R-E-D Code: 1-3-1

Description: Root large, fleshy, round at the top, tapering; stems 2 m long, pale gray-green, slender, 1-2.5 cm in diameter, strongly angled by the 4-6 low, broad ribs; areoles narrowly oval about 4 mm long, white to gray woolly, bearing approximately 12 gray to black spines; flowers nocturnal, fragrant, white, about 5-10 cm in diameter and 15-20 cm long, the hypanthium long and slender; fruit with small, deciduous blackish spines, ripening to red; seeds about 2.5-3 mm long, tubercled, black, with basal hilum. Flowers in June.

Similar Species: The Sonoran Peniocereus greggii var. transmontanus may occur in Hidalgo County, New Mexico. It has smaller areoles (1.5 mm), longer spines on ovary and fruit, and larger flower.


Distribution: New Mexico, Doņa Ana, Grant, Hidalgo, and Luna counties; Texas, mostly in the Big Bend Region; Mexico, Chihuahua.

Habitat: Mostly in sandy to silty gravelly soils in gently broken to level terrain in desert grassland or Chihuahuan desert scrub. Typically found growing up through and supported by shrubs, especially Larrea divaricata and Prosopis glandulosa.

Remarks: A popular plant with religious, medicinal, and ornamental uses.

Conservation Considerations: Many populations have been extirpated from New Mexico. Private and commercial collectors have eliminated entire populations of this species from its natural habitat. Agricultural uses of land and development have had large impacts on populations as well. This is a vanishing plant throughout its range. Ironically, it is easily propagated by short stem cuttings and from seed. There is no need for wild plants to be dug up.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

*Benson, L. 1982. The cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

*New Mexico Native Plants Protection Advisory Committee. 1984. A handbook of rare and endemic plants of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

*Schulz, E.D. and R. Runyon. 1930. Texas cacti. Texas Academy of Science, San Antonio.

*Weniger, D. 1970. Cacti of the Southwest. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Information Compiled By: David J. Ferguson, 1998

Agency Status:
Taxon USFWS State of NM USFS BLM Navajo Nation Natural Heritage NM Global Rank
Peniocereus greggii var. greggiiSoCE.Sen.S1G3G4T2


Photo credits in header Peniocereus greggii var. greggii © T. Todsen,
Lepidospartum burgessii © M. Howard, Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta © R. Sivinski
©2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council