There is a lot of beauty and poetry in the moonlight cactus plants. They have spines and fruits and flowers. Some last a while, the others are just for the night. If you are as fascinated as we are by this species, keep reading to know how to take care of them.
List of Selenicereus Lower Classifications
There are tens of varieties of known Selenicereus plants. Here is a list of some of them and what they are like.
- Selenicereus anthonyanus: Also called fishbone cactus, it is a slow-growing type of tropical epiphytic cactus. They climb or hang up to 120 cm in length and are bright green in color with a zigzag shape.
You will find them hanging from pots on patios and greenhouses. They are used to cover walls in tropical climates.
- Selenicereus alliodorus
- Selenicereus atropilosus
- Selenicereus calcaratus
- Selenicereus costaricensis: Also called the Costa Rican Pitahaya, this is grown commercially. It gives fruits called pitaya and beautiful flowers too. The vine is rather pretty and the species is very similar to Selenicereus monacanthus.
- Selenicereus dorschianus
- Selenicereus escuintlensis
- Selenicereus extensus
- Selenicereus glaber
- Selenicereus grandiflorus: Also called night-blooming cereus, this species found a mention in Darwin’s The Botanical Garden published in 1791. He describes the plant as parasitic, intoxicating and spooky. Darwin said that the plant was poisonous and back in the day, they were used to make poison arrows.
- Selenicereus guatemalensis
- Selenicereus hamatus
- Selenicereus inermis
- Selenicereus megalanthus
- Selenicereus minutiflorus: This species is native to Honduras, Belize and Guatemala. When fully grown, it has three-angled stems that are 1.5 to 3.5 cm in diameter. The areola are about two to four cm apart and the plant has small brown-colored spins and sometimes also long spines.
- Selenicereus monacanthus
- Selenicereus murrillii
- Selenicereus nelsonii
- Selenicereus ocamponis
- Selenicereus pteranthus: Also called the princess of the night, this one is quite popular and blooms at night. It has four to six-angled stems with spines and no leaves. Some spins are conical and sometimes grow in clusters of two or four.
- Selenicereus purpusii
- Selenicereus spinulosus
- Selenicereus tonduzii
- Selenicereus triangularis
- Selenicereus tricae
- Selenicereus trigonus
- Selenicereus undatus: This is an epiphytic cactus type that crawls with a vine and can reach 1,000 cm in height. The roots are aerial and they climb upwards. You will find this one growing on rocks and trees. It has three-angled stems that are fleshy and grow up to 5 cm in width.
- Selenicereus vagans
- Selenicereus validus
- Selenicereus boeckmannii
- Selenicereus chontalensis
Origins of Selenicereus
Typically, they are referred to as moonlight cactus and there are more than 30 species and the genus of about 20 of them is from the Cactaceae family of cacti. They are also referred to as the jungle cactus and are often found in Mexico and Central America.
Most of them are native to Central and South America but also West Indies. Some species, like the Selenicereus grandiflorus can be grown indoors as they often are. Some of these species of cacti have leaves which is why they are confused with cacti that have the genus of Epiphyllum.
Traits and Characteristics of Selenicereus
Some of these are climbing plants that are found on the ground while some others have aerial roots and grow on trees. The stems are usually angled but in some cases, they are ribbed or flattened too.
You might even find lobes projecting backwards in species like Selenicereus hamatus. These lobes are meant to help them hang on to surfaces like branches. You will find that their areolas might or might not have spines. So, that is not the defining feature. It’s the stems that make them distinguished whether they are ribbed or angled.
These plants have large and white flowers which bloom during the spring. They are nocturnal which means they bloom at night. They are about 15 cm in diameter and open up by the evening and stay that way all night long.
The flowers are fragrant and common in this family of cacti in mature plants. Most of them last just for a night and the pollination typically happens through moths or bats. You will see that both the scales and flower tube of the ovary are quite small. They will have long hair and bristled in the axils.
The fruits of this plant are red in color when they mature and true to their nature, they are typically covered in bristles, spines or hairs. These cacti have cylindrical stems that are green and make for a good contrast with the white thorns that can be found on their ribs. You will find them in hanging pots or low walls.
How to Care for the Moonlight Cactus
These plants need direct sunlight during the morning or late afternoon. They are not great when the temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The soil must be well drained and must have a good deal of brown peat. And make sure it is renewed in the spring once every couple of years.
When you water it, keep the quantity moderate and only after the soil is completely dry. The water must be lime-free because they are sensitive to salts in the water. If the plant is not getting enough water, you will see aerial roots growing upwards (unless the species is meant to be doing so) to get some humidity from the surroundings.
These plants don’t need pruning but if you add too much water, they will attract bugs, mites or fungi in the summer that attack the plant.
You can use a little bit of cactus fertilizer from mid-spring all the way to the summer but use it only once a month. You can get their cuttings or obtain their seeds from the fruit and spring is a good time to sow them.
There are so many types of Selenicereus plants that it can be a task to keep a track of them. But not all of them are popularly grown and some of them are done so commercially for their fruits.
If you have a flowering variety, remember that the flower opens up only a night and lasts for a night. So it’s a date and a one-night stand coming together in a cactus plant…if you can see the poetry in that.