Stenocereus thurberi, the organ pipe cactus, is a species of cactus native to Mexico and the United States. The species is found in rocky desert. Two subspecies are recognized based on their distribution and height. The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is named for the species.
|Organ pipe cactus|
|S. thurberi thurberi|
This cactus species has several narrow stems that rise vertically, growing from a single short trunk just above the ground level. These stems are about 15 cm (6 in) thick and grow to a height of 5 m (16 ft), however it has been known to reach 7 to 8 m (23 to 26 ft). These stems rarely branch but rather grow annually from the tip of the last growth. The mature plant can reach a width of 3.5 m (12 ft). Each stem has twelve to nineteen 10 mm (3⁄8 in) high ribs that bear dark brown to black spines that turn gray as it matures. It takes 150 years to reach maturity. The older plants produce 75 mm (3 in) funnel-shaped white flowers annually which are open at night and close by the morning and have a purple or pink tint to them. These usually grow during April, May, and June. The organ pipe cactus is usually pollinated by bats. The plant also produces fruit about the size of a tennis ball. Beneath the fruit's spiny exterior is red flesh that has been described as tasting better than watermelon. This fruit has traditionally been harvested by the Seris, who call the plant ool [oːɬ], and is used as a medicine.
This species is found mostly in Mexico, mainly in Sonora and southern Baja California and Northern Sinaloa. It is also known to the United States, but is much rarer, with the notable exception of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The plant is predominantly found on rocky hillsides up to 900 m (3,000 ft) in elevation. It is sensitive to frost, so the species is rare in low desert areas, which can be more susceptible to frost. The plant is slow growing, and prefers well-drained soil and full sun. However, when in the seedling stage, it requires shade, and will grow beneath a "nurse tree". It will need this for several years until it grows an adequate root system, which is mostly in the upper 10 cm of soil.
There are two recognized subspecies, the type subspecies, thurberi, is much larger and occurs in southern Arizona, mainland Mexico, and Northern Baja California. The other is littoralis, which is much smaller and usually grows to around 3 m (10 ft). It occurs only in southern Baja California.
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- USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Stenocereus thurberi". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
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- Felger, Richard; Moser, Mary B (1985). People of the desert and sea: ethnobotany of the Seri Indians. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-0818-6.
- "Organ Pipe Cactus (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2021-09-29.
- "ORGAN PIPE CACTUS (Stenocereus thurberi)". Desert Ecology. Retrieved 2006-07-31.
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