Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family
Description The native range of this tall, many-stemmed cactus is limited to the warmest portion of the Sonoran Desert.
Habit: succulent native perennial tree or shrub.
Height: 10-24 ft (3-7 m) or much more; spread 6.5-20 ft (2-6 m).
Stem: columnar, erect, growing from base, usually unbranched, vertically ribbed, to 6 in (15 cm) diameter.
Leaf: spine, dark gray, thin, straight; clustered 11-19 per areole, in rows along stem ribs; radial spines 0.5-1.5 in (1-3.5 cm) long, central spines to 2.5 in (6 cm) long.
flower: lavender, vase-shaped, cream-white to pale pink to pale lavender, 2-2.5 in (50-63 mm) wide, to 3 in (75 mm) tall, near top of stem; opening at night, closing at sunrise, persisting for less than 24 hours.
Fruit: red berry, round, thorny, 1.75-3 in (45-75 mm) diameter; with deciduous spines.
Flower March to September, sometimes to December.
Habitat Upland Sonoran desert scrub, south-facing slope; 65-3600 ft (20-1100 m); also cultivated as an ornamental. In Mexico, found also in thornscrub and tropical deciduous forest.
Range Sonoran Desert: south-central Arizona, south into Mexico: Sonora and Baja California.
Discussion Two varieties are sometimes proposed. Collection is restricted in Arizona. This cactus branches at the base, which gives the stems the appearance of organ pipes. Under cultivation, it may grow up to one foot per year, but these sentinels of the desert are very sensitive to severe winter frosts. In the U.S., they occur only in extreme southern Arizona, where they are celebrated at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. In Mexico, the large, delicious fruits are made into a candy called "pitahaya dulce." The nocturnal flowers are beautiful and often attract bats.