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T. peruvianus and T. pachanoi Comparisons
Cacti - Trichocereus spp.
by Mr. Inapplicable
Citation:   Mr. Inapplicable. "T. peruvianus and T. pachanoi Comparisons: An Experience with Cacti - Trichocereus spp. (exp56167)". Erowid.org. Mar 17, 2007. erowid.org/exp/56167

    Cacti - columnar


I wanted to share with you my opinion on the growing conditions of the Trichocereus (Echinopsis) pachonoi and peruvianus differences. The two are very different in growing conditions, despite what most reports claim. I have been growing both specimens in probably the most inhospitable conditions on the planet for over ten years. True extreme deserts are the only environments which test the plant's psychological endurance and perseverance. I grow both specimens in the driest metropolitan area in the continental United States, Las Vegas, Nevada.

I live in Las Vegas, Nevada where both specimens are commonly found growing in landscapes. San Pedro is a less adaptive species then the Peruvian Torch, although many hybrids are found throughout nature. These hybrids display characteristics of both specimens. Most hybrids seem to have a bluish or dark green tint to the flesh. The greatest indicator of a hybrid is the spine length on the cactus. Nearly all hybrids have spine length variations throughout the verticality of the cactus. Frequently the bottom of the cactus has longer 1” spines which tend to diminish in length as the cactus grows vertically. The top of a hybrid usually looks identical to a short spine San Pedro specimen. Whereas the bottom will usually consist of long ¼” to 2” spines where a darker green or bluish tint is often, yet not always predominant.

The diameter of a hybrid is the most variable. Hybrids are from 2” to 8” in diameter, depending on the genetics and light exposure of the specimen. But more often then not a hybrid has a shorter diameter then a true Trichocereus Peruvianus, usually only 2” to 4” at the most. It is safe to assume inbreeding between the two species over the millenia. Therefore, most studies done on Trichocereus cactus were performed on hybrids. Realistically, most of the scientific alkaloid studies were done on specimens obtained from mild climates where the cactus were growing in favorable conditions within nitrogen rich soil.

Las Vegas receives roughly 4 inches of rainfall annually. This Mojave and Sonora desert region has very hard clay-like cliché soil. The soil is extremely hard on the cactus. The nature of the soil makes many nutrients uneasily obtainable to them. Caliche’s soil restricts cactus’ roots ability to penetrate the hard layer of soil material. Trichocereus cactus mainly come from nutrient rich soils in South America. Under these conditions the roots grow deep and have a more ready availability to water reserves. In southwestern deserts the cactus is forced to extend roots close to the soil surface. It is, therefore, more taxing on the plant during times of drought and famine when it cannot access deep water reserves unlike it‘s natural distribution. The difficult access to nutrients places additional strain on the cactus’ ability to utilize nitrogen, phosphorus, and magnesium. These challenges help to create a richer alkaloid composition within the cactus.

I will use the analogy of the species Vinus Vinifera aka “grapes.” Grapes grow best in hot, dry, Mediterranean climates. The best wines in the world come from rocky, deep, and poor soils. Under severe stress the plant is forced to produce fewer grapes which have greater harvesting potential for manufacture into wines. Favorable tropical climates with rich soil allow the plant to flourish. This, however, does not allow the grape vine to produce grapes which channel the richest taste, palette, and diversity into making exceptional wines. The same circumstances apply to Trichocereus cactus.

My Trichocereus specimens receive water only during the hottest months from July-September. In Las Vegas, Nevada, I have seen temperatures in my yard vary from 122 degrees down to 22 degrees on the southern exposure of my yard. Las Vegas, Nevada, on average, gets over three months a year above 100 degrees. The record low for our city is 8 degrees. I know both specimens of Trichocereus can endure temperatures of 10 degrees as I have seen massive 20 foot specimens growing unattended in historic yards which are 40 years old.

San Pedro is about three inches in diameter. It cannot store ample amounts of moisture in relation to the Peruvian Torch cactus which on average is around 4-6 inches in diameter. I have dozens of San pedro cactus in my yard. During the peak months of July-August San Pedro often turns yellow and shrivels up if I do not water the specimens three times a week. Extreme stress will cause the tips and edges of the cactus to die back and turn brown. The peruvian Torch cactus seems to handle these stresses more readily. I have not encountered the same hostile circumstances placed on Trichocereus Peruvianus, which are often seen onTrichocereus Pachonoia.

Psychoactive Cactus take much time to store up mescaline within the outer tissue. The Peruvian Torch cactus seems to build up more mescaline then San Pedro due to it’s greater girth. It is more drought and cold tolerant because of this significant adaptation to drier conditions.

Once again I will use another analogy of an overweight individual. A person with greater body fat can survive longer then an individual with less body fat. The individual with less body fat would realistically die sooner. However, the greater mass of the larger individual would survive longer and subsequently be stressed and be able to endure more unfavorable circumstances. In Las Vegas, Nevada there are usually two weeks during the summer with temperatures hovering above 110 farenheight in the day, with lows around 90 farenheight at night. During this time the San Pedro cactus seems particularly vulnerable to evaporation and dieback. This is the best time to harvest the cactus for psychoactive substances during extreme temperatures when stress imposes it's greatest limit on the cactus’ survival ability.

The longer spines on the Peruvian Torch cactus seem to dictate a need for the plant to force higher concentrations of alkaloid compounds within it's green tissue areas in response to stress. San Pedro has virtually non-existent spines because it does not need to deter the same physical barriers which are imposed upon the Peruvian Torch cactus. The longer spines on the Peruvian Torch are indicative of a specimen which through generations of adaptation developed higher mescaline concentrations to ward off predators and environmental problems. The alkaloids store in the outermost areas of the cactus in order to protect it from external threats. Because the 'true' Trichocereus Peruvianus specimens are thicker in diameter, they have adapted to store more alkaloids in their outer layers. These alkaloids build up in greater concentrations under severe stress over the period of several months.

An older specimen with a greater diameter would therefore build up more of these alkaloids to protect itself. The growth areas contain less mescaline because the plant has invested less time and energy into these parts. A prolonged and extended 15 degree freeze will kill the top portion of a Trichocereus specimen. The lower surviving parts will have accumulated and retained alkaloids which will further protect the plant from any additional stress. The survival mode of the cactus is to protect the plant areas closest to the ground which have the best chance of sprouting back from a hard frost.

The stump area is the plant’s greatest chance for survival against extreme heat and cold. It will grow back from these areas. Severe heat or cold will brown out and kill top portions of the plant. Therefore, it’s only chance for survival at this point is to sprout back from the lower segments which is it’s only insurance for propagating the next growing season. These lower areas are where the cactus will have built up the greatest mescaline content in order to protect it’s most valuable parts. This ensures it’s survival during future environmental catastrophes.

Personal experience is my general consensus for these observations. I have ingested 10 different variations of San Pedro cactus from nurseries, mail order companies, and local specimens. I have also consumed half a dozen Peruvian torch specimens under the same parameters. The Peruvian Torch cactus seems to on average be anywhere from 2 to 3 times as psychoactive as a San Pedro cactus of the same mass. I have never consumed a San Pedro specimen which was more psycho actively potent then a Peruvian Torch specimen. Hybrids, however, are often very potent. They seem to have advantages of both species. Although as a rule of thumb they are generally still less psychoactive then a true Trichocereus Peruvianus specimen. I have ingested these Trichocereus specimens roughly 70 times over the last ten years. I believe no scientific report or postulation can deny the experience of others who breath, live, and ingest the cactus on a frequent basis.

Nearly all commercial psychoactive Trichocereus cactus are distributed from three sources: Peru, California, and south Florida. These are extremely favorable climates for the cactus to prosper. But unrealistic in presenting the cactus with any real challenge for mescaline growth or build up of psychoactive chemicals. Palm Springs, CA, Phoenix, AZ, and Las Vegas, NV are the areas best suited for forcing the cactus to produce the highest concentration of mescaline and phenethylamine compounds. This is personal experience based on specimens from these southwestern desert areas. Only under severe stress can these cactus be forced into their greatest alkaloid potential both physically and psychologically. This is my personal experience and theoretical belief. If a Trichocereus specimen rich in alkaloids is to be desired, these are the cities which offer the greatest opportunity for obtaining these chemical traits.

I wanted to share this personal insight I have gained in the hopes of better distinguishing the two species Trichocereus Pachonoi and Trichocereus Peruvianus. There is much scientific discrepancies between the two species. I hope this information has shed some small light on the confusion which exists between the two.

Exp Year: 2006ExpID: 56167
Gender: Male 
Age at time of experience: Not Given 
Published: Mar 17, 2007Views: 23,322
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Cacti - T. pachanoi (64), Cacti - T. peruvianus (69) : Not Applicable (38), Cultivation / Synthesis (31), Preparation / Recipes (30), Retrospective / Summary (11)

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