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Cephalocereus senilis
"Old Man of Mexico "




      Native to Mexico, Cephalocereus senilis is a slow growing columnar cactus known for their hairy appearance. The hairs are actually modified spines that help protect the plant from sun and cold. Real spines are hidden underneath. So the urge to pet them should be discouraged. Extremely slow growing, a Cepahlocereus in the wild can take twenty years to reach a height of two feet, but they grow considerably faster in cultivation. It is reported that very old specimens in the wild can grow to fifty feet but rarely exceed three feet in cultivation. A night bloomer, plants at least twenty years old can produce trumpet shaped pink, yellow or white flowers followed by rose colored fruits.
     Cephalocereus senilis is probably the most popular species in cultivation. Found this beauty at Bachs Cactus Nursery in Tucson and planted it in the garden. So far it has seemed to do well although it's hard to tell being so hairy. Unfortunately because they grow so slowly, I doubt I'll ever see it flower. It did seem to grow about an inch this year though. Below is a pair of nice mature specimens at Tucson Botanical Gardens. Also a flower pic from another species at the Desert Museum, just to show the type of flowers they produce.


Tucson Botanical Gardens
Desert Museum
All images and text are copyright 2005-2009 D.S. Franges, unless otherwise noted.