The Red torch cactus (variously Echinopsis huascha or Trichocereus huascha) is native to northern Argentina. Many cultivars (hybrids) exist and are found in gardens elsewhere. You can see one variety at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in the plaza by the Art Gallery. That is where I took the photos in this article.
The red torch cactus resembles our native hedge-hog cactus. The red torch grows one to three feet high and it branches spread up to three feet. It is a heat-loving cactus.
Flowers, two to four inches across bloom in the spring. The flowers are nocturnally blooming and exist for only about 18 hours, similar to saguaro flowers. Flower color ranges from deep red to orange and yellow depending on the cultivar.
This cactus can be asexually propagated by removal and rooting of stems segments. Allow stem segments to callus for several weeks before directly sticking into the soil according to Arizona State University.
The Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society has advice on growing these cacti (and some great photos) here. They claim that “The best cultivars will bloom massively every 10 days to two weeks over a span of three months.”
There is another Torch Cactus, Echinopsis peruviana or Peruvian Torch, which grows at high elevations in the Andes of Peru. This torch is as big as a saguaro cactus and has white flowers.
This cactus contains the psychoactive alkaloid mescaline as well as other alkaloids, a property which has been exploited for thousands of years.
The Peruvian torch cactus is relatively fast growing and can also be propagated from cuttings.
If you want to know when the torch cacti are next in bloom so you can take photos, follow the ASDM facebook page.
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Saguaro Cactus Icon of the Sonoran Desert
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