Kampala Tree and Palm Directory

Tree Species
Common Name
Tree Description
Tree Uses

English: Peruvian apple cactus/Column cactus/Hedge cactus, Peruvian apple, Peruvian torch, Queen of the Night.

+ Tree Species

Cereus peruvianus

+ Tree Family


+ Ecology

Cereus peruvianus is native from rocky outcrops and the savanna in South America. It is widespread cultivated for living fences and as an ornamental plant and thus difficult to know its natural occurrence; probably native to the western Caribbean and Venezuela (or Brazil). The species is common in gardens in tropical and subtropical countries around the world and has been planted commercially as a fruit crop on a small scale in Netherlands Antilles, other Caribbean, Mexico, Israel and USA and often sub spontaneous from abandoned cultivations. It grows in conditions with direct light, temperatures of min 10 C max 13 C (50-55 F) in rest period and temperatures of min 16 C max 24 C (61-75 F) in the active growth period and low humidity. During the warm season Cereus peruvianus produces several flower flushes. In Kampala, this tree can be found along Ngabo road, Wampewo avenue among other places.

+ Description

Cereus peruvianus is a large, erect, thorny columnar cactus up to 9m (30 feet) tall and 10 20 cm in diameter as a self-supporting plant. It is a perennial tree-like stem succulent, often with many upright or slightly curved branches above, often with distinct trunks. Fruits tend to crack during ripening and flesh sweetens as the fruit opens out fully. Fruit take about 40-50 days to swell and ripen, so there are often flowers and fruits on the plant at the same time. A single large plant may produce hundreds of fruits every year.    

BARK: cylindrical grey-green to blue stems, has five to eight broad, prominent notched ribs separated by deep, narrow indentations.

LEAVES: areoles in the notches are filled with white hairs and each areole bears a cluster of about seven brown spines, which are unlikely to grow more than 1-2cm (0.4-0.8 inch) long indoors.

FLOWERS: generally produced on large specimens only, are about 15cm (6 inch) long and have white petals tinged with brownish green. Cereus peruvianus flowers in summer and opens at night time. Each flower blooms only one night and then dies.

FRUIT: red fruits known as Peruvian apple 2.5-5cm (1-2 inch) in diameter, globose to elongate up to 4 cm long, thorn-less and vary in skin color from violet-red to yellow.

+ Uses

Used as a windowsill plant, but mainly as a floor plant as it grows tall.

Used as a houseplant to bring exotic air to interiors where they are.

Suitable for xeriscaping since its drought resistant.

An ornamental plant.

The inner cane-like wood of the plant can be used in wattle and daub construction.

+ Propagation

Seeds, stem cuttings, offsets.

+ Management

Very fast growing. Propagation by seeds is much more difficult than propagating cuttings. It can be grown in containers and kept to smaller sizes, as well as planted among boulders, on slopes and in succulent gardens. Good drainage and avoiding prolonged soil moisture is the key to good health and growth. They are very easy to grow indoors and need very little attention. The plant needs proper care in terms of watering it sparingly in the rest period and watering moderately in active growth period. Pruning can be done on the top.

+ Remarks

The plant has spines or sharp edges and therefore, use caution when handling. Though less gigantic in pots, they are much admired for their sculptural, columnar shape, which contrasts impressively with that of most other plants in any collection of cacti.

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