Cereus hildmannianus

queen of the night


Cereus hildmannianus

K.Schum. 1890

pronounced: KER-e-uss hild-man-ee-AH-nuss

(Cactaceae — the cactus family)

common name: queen of the night

Cereus is Latin for waxen, a wax taper, from the stiff form of the plant; hildmannianus is named for Heinrich Hildmann, (fl. 1870-1895), German cactus horticulturist and owner of a cactus nursery at Birkenwerder near Berlin.

The magnificent cactus in flower was growing in the garden of a house in Compass Crescent, Nelly Bay, near to its junction with Sextant Drive, but, alas, has since been removed. The other plant, photographed in fruit, is in the front garden of a house in Wansfall Street, Picnic Bay. Until now I had only occasionally seen this plant in bud, and on each occasion the single bud dropped off before the flower opened. It is good to see it at last in fruit.

The whole taxonomy of Cereus is ‘iffy’. Very early on, the name was applied to nearly all known cactus species that were ribbed, columnar plants. Many of these plants have now been moved out into separate genera. Consequently, the 30 or so plants that remain in the Cereus genus are largely plants that have not been moved out, rather than plants that have been included because they fit the Cereus criteria. This makes for a very messy and unsatisfactory grouping, and the genus will probably lose more of its present species as study continues.

The stereotypic Cereus is a large, tree-like columnar plant with 4–10 well-defined ribs, large areoles, and moderate, stout spines. The flowers are large and white with floral tubes that are smooth or have smooth scales; they are nocturnal and fragrant. Cereus hildemannius fits the criteria well, and will probably remain in the genus.

All cacti are American natives, their range extending from Patagonia to southern Canada; but they are densest and most diverse in the regions of northern Mexico and the southern tropics of Argentina and Bolivia. The only known exception to this is Rhipsalis baccifera, which is native both to the Americas and to tropical Africa, Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Cereus hildmannianus originates in south-eastern Brazil and northern Argentina.
This is a columnar cactus branching from the base, to 9 m tall, clumping up to 4.5 m in diameter. The stems are 12–17 cm in diameter, often with no spines on the younger stems: spines grow progressively as the stem ages.

The 15 cm white flowers open at night; they are followed by large red egg-shaped fruits that split open when ripe.

This is one of the easiest of the cactus genera to propagate by cuttings, and it may also be grown from seed.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2011, Picnic Bay 2015
Page last updated 4th November 2018