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Pachycereus pringlei

Pachycereus pringlei , Photo: Michael Lahanas

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Ordo: Caryophyllales

Familia: Cactaceae
Subfamilia: Cactoideae
Tribus: Echinocereeae
Genus: Pachycereus
Species: Pachycereus pringlei

Pachycereus pringlei (S.Watson) Britton & Rose, Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 12: 422 (1909).


Cereus pringlei S.Watson, Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts 20: 368 (1885).

Cereus calvus Engelm. ex J.M.Coult., Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 3(7): 409 (1896).
Cereus pringlei var. calvus (Engelm. ex J.M.Coult.) M.E.Jones, Contr. W. Bot. 18: 60 (1933).
Cereus titan Engelm. ex J.M.Coult., Contr. U. S. Natl. Herb. 3: 409 (1896).
Pachycereus calvus (Engelm. ex J.M.Coult.) Britton & Rose, Contr. U. S. Natl. Herb. 12: 420 (1909).
Pachycereus pringlei f. calvus (Engelm. ex J.M.Coult.) P.V.Heath, Calyx 2(3): 107 (1992).
Pachycereus pringlei f. constrictus P.V.Heath, Calyx 2(3): 107 (1992).
Pachycereus pringlei f. cristatus P.V.Heath, Calyx 2(3): 107 (1992).
Pachycereus pringlei f. gibbosus P.V.Heath, Calyx 2(3): 107 (1992).
Pachycereus titan (Engelm. ex J.M.Coult.) Britton & Rose, Contr. U. S. Natl. Herb. 12: 422 (1909).

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Northern America
Regional: Mexico
Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest

Pachycereus pringlei

Pachycereus pringlei (*)

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Britton, N.L. & Rose, J.N. 1909: Contributions from the United States National Herbarium''. Smithsonian Institution 12: 422.

Additional references

Korotkova, N., Aquino, D., Arias, S., Eggli, U., Franck, A. , Gómez-Hinostrosa, C., Guerrero, P.C., Hernández, H.M., Kohlbecker, A., Köhler, M., Luther, K., Majure, L.C., Müller, A., Metzing, D., Nyffeler, R., Sánchez, D., Schlumpberger, B. & Berendsohn, W.G. 2021. Cactaceae at Caryophyllales. org–a dynamic online species-level taxonomic backbone for the family. Willdenowia 51(2): 251–270. DOI: 10.3372/wi.51.51208 Open access Reference page.


Korotkova, N. et al. 2021. Pachycereus pringlei in Cactaceae at A global synthesis of species diversity in the angiosperm order Caryophyllales. Published online. Accessed: 2021 Dec 18. Reference page.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Pachycereus pringlei in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2021 Dec 18. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2021. Pachycereus pringlei. Published online. Accessed: Dec 18 2021. 2021. Pachycereus pringlei. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 18 Dec 2021.
Hassler, M. 2021. Pachycereus pringlei. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2021. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published online. Accessed: 2021 Dec 18. Reference page.
The Plant List 2013. Version 1.1 Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 2014 Sep 16.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Pachycereus pringlei in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 07-Oct-06.

Vernacular names
Deutsch: Cardón-Kandelaberkaktus
English: False Saguaro
español: Cardón Pelón, Sagueso, Sahuaso
suomi: Jättipilarikaktus

Pachycereus pringlei, also known as Mexican giant cardon or elephant cactus, is a species of cactus native to northwestern Mexico in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Sonora. It is commonly known as cardón, a name derived from the Spanish word cardo, meaning "thistle".[3]

Large stands of this cactus still exist, but many have been destroyed as land has been cleared for cultivation in Sonora.

The fruit of this cactus was an important food for the Seri people in Sonora, who call the cactus xaasj.[4]

A symbiotic relationship with bacterial and fungal colonies on its roots allows P. pringlei to grow on bare rock even where no soil is available at all, as the bacteria can fix nitrogen from the air and break down the rock to produce nutrients. The cactus even packages symbiotic bacteria within its seeds.[5][6][7]


A cardon specimen is the tallest[1] living cactus in the world, with a maximum recorded height of 19.2 m (63 ft 0 in),[8][9] with a stout trunk up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in diameter bearing several erect branches. In overall appearance, it resembles the related saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), but differs in being more heavily branched and having branching nearer the base of the stem, fewer ribs on the stems, blossoms located lower along the stem, differences in areoles and spination, and spinier fruit.

Its flowers are white, large, nocturnal, and appear along the ribs as opposed to only apices of the stems.
Lifespan and growth

An average mature cardon may reach a height of 10 metres (30 ft), but individuals as tall as 18 metres (60 ft) are known.[10] It is a slow-growing plant [11] with a lifespan measured in hundreds of years, but growth can be significantly enhanced in its initial stages by inoculation with plant growth-promoting bacteria such as Azospirillum species.[12][13][14] Most adult cardon have several side branches that may be as massive as the trunk. The resulting tree may attain a weight of 25 tons.[15]


1.^ The tallest living cactus is a specimen of Pachycereus pringlei. The tallest cactus ever measured was an armless Saguaro cactus which blew over in a windstorm in 1986; it was 23.8 meters (78 feet) tall.[9]


Burquez Montijo, A. 2017. Pachycereus pringlei (amended version of 2013 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T151996A121574684. Accessed on 10 March 2022.
"Pachycereus pringlei". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2011-11-03.
Chamlee, Bob. "Cardón cactus, Pachycereus pringlei". Los Cabos Guide to Good Eating and More!. Archived from the original on 2006-04-15. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
*Felger, Richard; Mary B. Moser. (1985). People of the desert and sea: ethnobotany of the Seri Indians. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-0818-6.
Puente, M. E.; Y. Bashan; C. Y. Li; V. K. Lebsky (September 2004). "Microbial populations and activities in the rhizoplane of rock-weathering desert plants. I. Root colonization and weathering of igneous rocks". Plant Biology. Stuttgart. 6 (5): 629–42. doi:10.1055/s-2004-821100. PMID 15375735.
Puente, M. E.; C. Y. Li; Y. Bashan (September 2004). "Microbial populations and activities in the rhizoplane of rock-weathering desert plants. II. Growth promotion of cactus seedlings". Plant Biology. Stuttgart. 6 (5): 643–50. doi:10.1055/s-2004-821101. PMID 15375736.
Walker, Matt (2009-08-19). "How cacti become 'rock busters'". BBC News.
Salak, M. "In search of the tallest cactus". Cactus and Succulent Journal. 72 (3).
"Windstorm Fells 78-Foot Cactus--Tallest in World". Retrieved 2015-08-04.
(León de la Luz and Valiente 1994).
(Roberts, 1989)
(Bashan et al., 1999
Carrillo et al., 2000
Puente and Bashan, 1993
(Gibson and Nobel, 1986).

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