CPC Plant Profile: Desert Night-blooming Cereus
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Plant Profile

Desert Night-blooming Cereus (Peniocereus greggii var. transmontanus)

The beautiful white flowers of the desert night-blooming cereus open in the evening and last only one night. Photo Credit: Lynda Pritchett-Kozak
Description
  • Global Rank: T3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Cactaceae
  • State: AZ, NM
  • Nature Serve ID: 141405
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/14/1986

One of the threats to this species comes from its popularity--this is a plant with a history of religious, medicinal, and ornamental use. Both private and commercial collectors have had a serious impact on the abundance of this species in its natural habitat by digging entire plants up. Ironically, the plant itself is relatively easy to propagate, so there is no need to dig entire plants up. (New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council 1999) Peniocereus greggii is a slender-stemmed cactus with a large underground tuber that can reach the size of a basketball, and weigh as much as 15 pounds. Occasional specimens are known to weigh as much as 87 pounds. It is reported that native Americans utilized the tuber for food. The gray stems are four to six ribbed, to 12 mm in diameter, and resemble the stems of the shrubs that often support them. The stems are armed with short dark spines along the ribs. The white, scented flowers are large and beautiful and bloom for only one night. Fruits are red, ovoid, sparsely spiny, fleshy and many-seeded.

Participating Institutions
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Updates
  • 10/06/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Desert Botanical Garden has five plants salvaged from an area slated to be destroyed for construction of the Central Arizona Project Canal, 3 cuttings from those plants, and approximately 10,000 seeds produced in cultivation. (Desert Botanical Garden 2000)

  • 10/06/2020
  • Living Collection

Desert Botanical Garden has five plants salvaged from an area slated to be destroyed for construction of the Central Arizona Project Canal, 3 cuttings from those plants, and approximately 10,000 seeds produced in cultivation. (Desert Botanical Garden 2000)

  • 10/06/2020
  • Seed Collection

Desert Botanical Garden has five plants salvaged from an area slated to be destroyed for construction of the Central Arizona Project Canal, 3 cuttings from those plants, and approximately 10,000 seeds produced in cultivation. (Desert Botanical Garden 2000)

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

The primary threat is urban development, including construction of canals, housing, mines, quarries, roads and reservoirs. Entire populations have been eliminated by private and commercial collectors who dig up entire plants. (New Mexico Rare Plant Te

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

There is one large, relatively widespread population occurring over the east-central portion of Arizona, with many sub-populations.

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

Desert Botanical Garden has five plants salvaged from an area slated to be destroyed for construction of the Central Arizona Project Canal, 3 cuttings from those plants, and approximately 10,000 seeds produced in cultivation. (Desert Botanical Garden 2000)

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

There is no formal management plan.

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

Research needs include understanding this species' reproductive biology and ecology as well as investigating the impact of Larrea tridentata on population dynamics.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Peniocereus greggii var. transmontanus
Authority (Engelm.) Backeb.
Family Cactaceae
CPC Number 14387
ITIS 529455
USDA PEGRT
Common Names desert night-blooming cereus | queen of the night
Associated Scientific Names Peniocereus greggii var. transmontanus | Cereus greggii var. transmontanus | Peniocereus greggii ssp. transmontanus
Distribution The known range has been expanded to include large areas in central Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, western Texas, and south into Sonora, Mexico at elevations below 4000 ft (Benson 1982).
State Rank
State State Rank
Arizona S3S4
New Mexico S2
Habitat

Peniocereus greggii is found primarily in Sonoran desertscrub in central regions of the state, in areas where Larrea tridentata is found (Gibson and Horack 1978).

Ecological Relationships

Peniocereus may be supported or shaded by Larrea tridentata. Plants in each population bloom in synchrony, each producing 3 to 5 flushes of flower from late May to early June. (Phillips 2000) Individual plants are usually widely separated, and flowers are not self-fertile, so they must be cross-pollinated by hawk moths for successful seed production. These hawk moths fly hundreds of yards between and among populations. If pesticides are used heavily in an area for residential or agricultural use, hawk moth populations may be decimated. This situation will, in turn, affect the pollinator-dependent night-blooming cereus, as it will cease to produce fruit and seeds if no pollinators are present. (Phillips 2000) Fruit is eaten by birds, and seed is dispersed in their droppings. (Phillips 2000)

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Honey bees Honey bees Confirmed Pollinator Link
Bees Floral Visitor Link
Butterflies & Moths
Sphinx moths Hawk moth Confirmed Pollinator Link
Sphinx moths Sphinx moth Confirmed Pollinator Link
Small moths Suspected Pollinator Floral Link
Flies
Flies Floral Visitor Link
Other
Bats Suspected Pollinator Floral Link
Reintroduction
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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