Stetsonia coryne | ‘Argentine Toothpick’ | ~5-9cm high (clumps of 4-7 rooted plants)
Stetsonia coryne (syn. Cereus coryne, Cereus chacoanus) is a popular cactus species which is originally native to Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. Known informally as the ‘Argentine Toothpick’, ‘Cardón’, ‘Cardón Moro’, ‘Cararacoré’, ‘Keulencereus’, ‘Stetsonkaktus’, ‘Stetsonie Cure-dent’, ‘Toothpick Cactus’, ‘Toothpick Saguaro’, ‘Toothpick Stetsonia’, ‘Tuna’ and ‘Unqillo’, it’s the only currently recognised species of the genus Stetsonia (although there’s also a cristata form in cultivation).
Growing in dense groups to approximately ten metres or so tall, coryne is a large and branching, blue-green columnar cactus with spines up to ten centimetres long. It’s gorgeous, white to whitish flowers – up to roughly fifteen centimetres in length – bloom only at night (and then only once the plant is at least twenty-five years old!), between late spring and early summer. They’re followed a month or two later by smooth-skinned, edible fruit (which apparently tastes reminiscent of lemon).
The ‘Toothpick Cactus’ occurs naturally in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11, at an altitude of two hundred to one thousand metres above sea level. In practice, this means that it prefers to grow on relatively flat habitats, such as low mountains and plains; especially those located around the edges of forest salt flats.
Besides being cultivated as an ornamental, Stetsonia coryne is grown for its fruit (which is also popular with many animal species). As with many other columnar cacti, such as those located within the Trichocereus genus, this species is also used as a living fence. Moreover, its cortex is used to make rain sticks, its thorns as needles and its wood is useful for crafts such as furniture-making.
Coryne is quite easy to grow from seed or cuttings, especially as its happy to grow in a wide range of mildly acidic to mildly alkaline soil (even if saline) – provided it’s aerated and well-drained. However, it is relatively slow growing compared to some other popular species. Space young plants roughly six metres apart so that they have enough room to grow to full maturity, preferably somewhere in full sun. Water only when the top layer of soil is completely dry to the touch and you should enjoy a long and happy relationship with these wonderful plants!
Organically grown from seed in sunny Spain – Ships from Spain
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