San Pedro Cactus
San Pedro cactus, also known as huachuma, is a powerful entheogenic plant that hails from the Andes region and has been used ceremonially for centuries in the Americas. A fairly large, spiny, and typical-looking columnar cactus, it would be easy to overlook in the rugged but beautiful Andean mountain landscape, but this plant has played a central role in the religions of that region for at least 2000 years.
Echinopsis pachanoi (syn. Trichocereus pachanoi) — known as San Pedro cactus — is a fast-growing columnar cactus native to the Andes Mountains at 2,000–3,000 m (6,600–9,800 ft) in altitude. It is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, and it is cultivated in other parts of the world. Uses for it include traditional medicine and traditional veterinary medicine, and it is widely grown as an ornamental cactus. It has been used for healing and religious divination in the Andes Mountains region for over 3,000 years. It is sometimes confused with its close relative Echinopsis peruviana (Peruvian torch cactus).
San Pedro Cactus for Sale
Echinopsis pachanoi is native to Ecuador and Peru. Its stems are light to dark green, sometimes glaucous, with a diameter of 6–15 cm (2.4–5.9 in) and usually 6–8 ribs. The whitish areoles may produce up to seven yellow to brown spines, each up to 2 cm (0.8 in) long although typically shorter in cultivated varieties, sometimes being mostly spineless. The areoles are spaced evenly along the ribs, approximately 2 cm (0.8 in) apart.
The San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi) is native to the Andes, but is now common in the southwestern United States. It is usually grown for ornamental purposes; however, like the peyote catcus, the San Pedro cactus is also grown for the ingredient mescaline, a controlled substance with psychoactive effects if consumed. In many parts of the world, including the United States, it is legal to grow a San Pedro cactus but illegal to extract the mescaline and consume, trade or sell it. The San Pedro cactus is among the fastest growing cacti and can be identified from other cacti by a few distinguishing features.
How To Identify San Pedro Cactus
Monitor its growth. A San Pedro cactus can grow up to a foot a year and can reach up to 20 feet tall and 6 feet wide.
Look at its shape. A San Pedro cactus is a tubular cactus that grows vertically, usually without arms. More than one stem can grow from the same crown.
- The San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi) is native to the Andes, but is now common in the southwestern United States.
- The San Pedro cactus is among the fastest growing cacti and can be identified from other cacti by a few distinguishing features.
Count the ribs or columns that run vertically along the cactus. A San Pedro cactus has a total of 6 to 8 rounded ribs or columns with small spikes on top to keep away predators.
Observe its flowers, which bloom during the nighttime hours when it is cooler. San Pedro cacti grows white blooms, usually in July. They can grow to be nine inches in diameter.
Compare a picture of a San Pedro cactus with the cactus that is in question. Alternatively, take a picture of the cactus to your local nursery or county extension office for them to verify if it is a San Pedro cactus or not.
- Count the ribs or columns that run vertically along the cactus.
- A San Pedro cactus has a total of 6 to 8 rounded ribs or columns with small spikes on top to keep away predators.
To Lose Your Head or Enter Heaven
The word huachuma translates to “removing the head” (wach- meaning “remove” and -uma meaning “head”) which metaphorically might mean the death of the ego. The word comes from Quechua, the language of the indigenous culture of the same name in the central Andes. As Maxwell told us, “The name San Pedro was an adaptation that came as a result of Catholic contact via Spanish conquistadors.” This is fascinatingly similar to the Bwiti tribe in Gabon who use ibogaine in a syncretic Christian-tribal tradition; it seems that part of the Andean adaptation to missionary influence was to rename this sacred plant after Saint Peter, implying that the entheogenic cactus holds the keys to the gates of heaven just as its new namesake, Saint Peter, is said to do.
The chemistry underlying this cactus is intriguing as well. The central psychoactive element in San Pedro is mescaline, an entheogenic compound found in another, much smaller psychedelic cactus, peyote. Maxwell described the chemical effects of mescaline as a slower experience than what you find with other psychedelic substances:
“Mescaline is a serotonin and dopamine-binding psychedelic with a slow metabolism compared to many other psychedelic compounds. The experience begins roughly 30 minutes after ingestion and is found to have highest concentrations in the blood between 2 and 4 hours after ingestion.”
How To Grow San Pedro Cactus
The San Pedro cactus is arguably the most popular columnar cactus in desert gardening circles, Trichocereus pachanoi [try-koh-KER-ee-us puh-KAH-no-ee] gets its name from the hairy (tricho) floral tube.
This Trichocereus (Echinopsis cactus) It hails from the South American countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.
In 1974, H. Friedrich and G. D. Rowley merged the genera Trichocereus and Echinopsis (ek-in-OP-sis, referring to a similar appearance to sea urchins).
While the genus Echinopsis pachanoi is currently valid, there’s a push to restore Trichocereus as the sole genus due to irreconcilable differences in the genera.
The plant was cataloged by the American botanist J. N. Rose who named the species after Ecuadorian professor Abelardo Pachano.
As a result of its popularity, the cactus (most commonly known as San Pedro) has 25 different common names in Spanish alone.
A few examples are andachuma, gigantón, huachuma, and wachuma.
Various Trichocereus species are scattered throughout the Andes mountains, with San Pedro being native to altitudes of 6,600′ to 9,800’ feet.
There are a total of five pachanoi species.
It should also be noted a close relative, the Peruvian torch cactus (Trichocereus peruvianus) is so similar the two species are almost synonymous.
San Pedro Cactus Care
Size & Growth
The San Pedro cactus is a fast-growing, multi-stemmed plant growing to measure approximately 5.9’ feet wide and up to 19.7’ feet tall.
Individual stems range from 2.4″ to 5.9” inches thick and may have between 4 and 8 ribs each.
Given the right amount of moisture, sun, and soil, these cacti are able to grow up to 1’ foot per year.
The stems range from pale green to blue-green, dark green with age.
Flowering and Fragrance
San Pedro buds are pointed and produce a fluted whitish flower in July.
They bloom at night and remain open, with the fragrant flowers measuring approximately 8.7” inches in diameter.
Black or brown hairs and scales cover the fruit, which measures 1.9″ to 2.4” inches long and 1.2″ inches in diameter.
Light & Temperature
San Pedro thrives in full sun after the first year, although seedlings may suffer sunburn in direct sunlight.
Be sure to gradually introduce a plant overwintered indoors to direct light, as they may get sunburned if transferred directly.
If grown indoors plants will need addition lighting from grow lights.
A healthy San Pedro can withstand temperatures are low as 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C) with the occasional brief dip as low as 15.8° degrees Fahrenheit (-9° C).
This resistance to cold may be bolstered through the use of Valerian flower extract.
It can thrive in USDA hardiness zones 8B to 10B.
Watering and Feeding
As with many succulents, this cactus will go dormant in colder months and should be given no water between October and April to reduce the risk of rot setting in.
Seedlings may have a very diluted mix of fertilizer occasionally, but adults are capable of being fed an undiluted concentration.
If you do feed use a diluted liquid fertilizer and only fertilize during the growing season.
Soil & Transplanting
Trichocereus pachanoi requires fertile, slightly acidic potting soil with good drainage.
A minimum amount of humus works best to reduce the risk of rot.
Seedlings will benefit from a tiny amount of highly diluted fertilizer, although adults can handle larger quantities.
Seedlings may be safely transplanted to pots after one year.
Grooming and Maintenance
Trichocereus pachanoi may be clipped for grafting or pupping.
Be sure to clip 12” inches or more, as larger plants grow faster.
No other grooming is necessary for a healthy plant.
The cactus is also low-maintenance.
Be sure the soil is well-drained.
A bit of sulfur or diatomaceous earth added to the soil works well as a natural pesticide.
How To Propagate Trichocereus Pachanoi
San Pedro seeds are very small and easy to propagate using the Fleischer technique.
You will need the following items:
- Clear glass jars (such as mason jars or salad containers) with lids
- A mix of fine sand and sowing soil (potting soil increases the risk of rot)
- A spray bottle
- Seeds verified less than ten years old (within one year are the most viable)
Sowing The Seed
- Fill the bottom of the container with the potting soil mix.
- Level the soil and tamp down gently to provide a stable platform for the seeds.
- Sprinkle the seeds onto the soil, allowing them to rest on top.
- Lightly mist the soil with water and cover.
- Place the containers in a sunny area where they won’t suffer direct exposure to sunlight.
- You may also use an LED lamp of 150 watts or higher. More on growing under artifical light.
- Ambient temperature should remain between 77° and 86° degrees Fahrenheit (25° – 30° C).
- Seeds should germinate within 2 to 3 weeks.
- A seed that fails to germinate in 6 weeks or shows signs of white mold on the seed itself is likely dead.
- Open the lid and dry the soil out before starting again.
You should also open the lid to dry if you see signs of fungus gnats.
Signs of mold in the jar should be rinsed away with the spray bottle, and the jar allowed to dry out before reclosing.
Be warned; the market is saturated with poor quality seeds.
Be sure to check the age of the seed when planning to self-germinate.
The younger they are, the better the chances of successful germination.
Trichocereus Pachanoi Pest or Disease Problems
All Trichocereus species are susceptible to deadly fungal infections.
These include damping off, orange rot, and witches broom disease.
Black rot is generally harmless and will heal itself after a short time.
Root mealybugs, scale, and spider mite may also be a problem.
These are safely dealt with using neem oil. Learn how to use Neem as a drench.
Scale is easily scrubbed off when caught early.
The San Pedro cactus grows in USDA hardiness zones 8b to 10. The range of minimum temperatures in which San Pedro is known to grow is between -9.4 °C and 10 °C.
The San Pedro cactus is very easy to grow in most areas and grows best in a temperate climate. Because it grows naturally in the Peruvian Andes Mountains at high altitude and with high rainfall, it can withstand temperatures far below that of many other cacti. It requires fertile, free-draining soil. They average half a meter per year of new growth. They are susceptible to fungal diseases if over-watered, but are not nearly as sensitive as many other cacti, especially in warm weather. They can be sunburned and display a yellowing chlorotic reaction to overexposure to sunlight.
In winter, plants will etiolate, or become thin, due to lower levels of light. This may be problematic if the etiolated zone is not sufficiently strong to support future growth as the cactus may break in strong winds.
Propagation from cuttings
Like many other plants, Echinopsis pachanoi can be propagated from cuttings. The result is a genetic clone of the parent plant. A long cactus column can be also laid on its side on the ground (like a log), and eventually roots will sprout from it and grow into the ground. After time, sprouts will form and cactus columns will grow upward out of it along its length.
Like a lot of its relatives Trichocereus pachanoi as a species is easily grown from seed, often by means of a so-called “Takeaway Tek”. This term refers to the practice of the sowing of Trichocereus (and sometimes other types of cactus) seed into plastic containers such as those many food takeaways are delivered in. This creates a semi-controlled humidity environment chamber for 6 months to a year, in which the seed may germinate and then grow relatively unbothered by environmental contamination.
San Pedro Cactus Effects
Like all psychedelic experiences, the effects of ingesting San Pedro are difficult if not impossible to describe. Words always fail to encapsulate the transcendent, but Maxwell shared with us one description he wrote about a particularly large dose of San Pedro, which will sound familiar to any who have had a profound psychedelic experience before.
“I felt like I [had] discovered a forgotten magic and was the first to experience it in centuries. I tested my body and flexed my arms, legs, and core. It felt amazing, I felt like no one alive had known how powerful they could be with this medicine in them. I started to see how I was exactly where I should be, I saw meaning and reason to my struggles thus far, I saw how I was functioning, and I felt appreciated by the universe itself…”
Of course, when it comes to any psychedelic, safety and due diligence is of the utmost importance. “As far as I know, no one has had any negative long term issues from using San Pedro,” Maxwell shared with us. “However, like all psychoactives, it’s important to be safe during the experience. Even though it’s pharmacologically safe and an enriching experience, a person under the influence of any substance can cause harm to themselves or others so it’s paramount to use [San Pedro] with respect.”
How To Prepare San Pedro Cactus
The first thing you will need is obviously some San Pedro, with the typical dose being around one foot or 30 cm of a potent San Pedro cactus. Whilst Trichocereus pachanoi is the most commonly used San Pedro cacti, there are in fact numerous other members of the Trichocereus genus than can be and are used as San Pedro.
Once you have your potent San Pedro, you need to stress the plant to increase its alkaloid levels. The best way to achieve this is by leaving the cutting in a dark place for at least a few weeks to a month. Really, the longer the better. See the following link for more information ~ Trichocereus Potency: A Basic Guide for Getting The Most Out of San Pedro.
Now, all you actually need to do is to cut your section of San Pedro into thin slices and place them into the pot, pressure cooker or slow cooker.
Then cover with water and boil for at least 4-6 hours. At which time the liquid will become discolored, having extracted the active ingredients into the water.
Once you have done this, you can strain out the solid material leaving only the remaining liquid.
Where To Buy San Pedro Cactus
In most countries it is legal to cultivate the San Pedro cactus. In countries where possession of mescaline and related compounds is illegal and highly penalized, cultivation for the purposes of consumption is most likely illegal and also highly penalized. This is the case in the United States, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany, and New Zealand, where it is currently legal to cultivate the San Pedro cactus for gardening and ornamental purposes, but not for consumption.
Psychetrips bring to to you all San Pedro to you at cheaper and discreet transportation worldwide.