Moonlight cactus

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Selenicereus spinulosus Tafel53 Cereus.png
Selenicereus spinulosus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Hylocereeae
Genus: Selenicereus
(A.Berger) Britton & Rose[1]

Selenicereus anthonyanus
Selenicereus chrysocardium
Selenicereus grandiflorus
Selenicereus hamatus
Selenicereus inermis
Selenicereus spinulosus
Selenicereus wercklei
Selenicereus wittii

  • etc.

Cryptocereus Alexander
Deamia Britton & Rose
Marniera Backeb.
Mediocactus Britton & Rose
Strophocactus Britton & Rose
Strophocereus Fric & Kreuz.[1]

Selenicereus, or moonlight cacti, is an epiphytic, lithophytic, and terrestrial cactus genus found in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America.


Clambering plants with flat to angled stems, producing aerial roots. Areoles may be with or without spines. Flowers are large and nocturnal, pollinated by moths or rarely bats. The receptacle bears small bracts, hairs and usually spines. Fruits bear numerous spines. Flowers are generally produced in abundance with mature plants and are typically white and are very fragrant and only last a single night in most species.


The generic name is derived from Σελήνη (Selene), the Greek moon goddess, and cereus, meaning "candle" in Latin, referring to the nocturnal flowers. The term nightblooming cereus is sometimes used here, but this is also used for many night blooming cacti, including Epiphyllum, Hylocereus and Peniocereus.


Species Description Image
Selenicereus anthonyanus
(Alexander) D.R.Hunt
Mexico. Stems like those of Epiphyllum anguliger but more vining and with short spines. Flowers ca. 12 cm long, 10–15 cm wide, the outer inner tepals purplish, the inner cream. Selenicereus anthonyanus.jpg
Selenicereus atropilosus Mexico. Flowers 12 cm long, receptacle with black hairs. The species is close to some species in the genus Weberocereus
Selenicereus chrysocardium Mexico. Stems deeply lobed, ca. 28 cm wide. Flowers 32–38 cm long, 23–30 cm wide, base of receptacle very spiny. The species is close to the genus Epiphyllum. Selenicereus chrysocardium flowers.jpg
Selenicereus grandiflorus
(L.) Britton & Rose
Jamaica, Cuba; Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua. Stems many-ribbed. Flowers 18 cm long, receptacle densely woolly. Three subspecies are recognized:

ssp. grandiflorus
ssp. donkelaarii - Mexico. Stems 1 cm thick, low-ribbed, spines short, appressed to stem. Flowers 18 cm long.
ssp. hondurensis- Honduras? Stem ribs tubercled. Flowers 30–34 cm long.

Johann Jacob Haid Cereus.jpg
The following species are very closely related to each other and possibly better treated as synonymous taxa or subspecies.
*Selenicereus boeckmannii Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mexico. Flowers 24–39 cm long. Close to S. pteranthus.
*Selenicereus brevispinus Cuba. Spines less and 1 mm long. Flowers 25 cm long. A shortspined S. grandiflorus.
*Selenicereus coniflorus
(Weing.) Britton & Rose
Mexico. Stems thick, usually with 5-6 ribs, spines to 1,5 cm long. Flowers 22–25 cm long. A long spined S. pteranthus or few ribbed S. grandiflorus. Pitayita de culebra (Selenicereus coniflorus), jardín botánico de Tallinn, Estonia, 2012-08-13, DD 01.jpg
*Selenicereus hallensis Colombia? Only known in cultivation and possibly a hybrid with S. macdonaldiae and some other "species".
*Selenicereus urbanianus Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic. Stems 4-5-ribbed, flowers 20–30 cm long. SelenicereusUrbanianus5UME.jpg
Selenicereus hamatus
(Scheidw.) Britton & Rose
Mexico. Stems 3-4-ribbed, with knobby projections, nearly spineless. Flowers 20–25 cm long, receptacle with black hairs. SelenicereusHamatus1MC.JPG
Selenicereus inermis Venezuela, Colombia. Stems 2-5-ribbed, almost spineless. Flower 15 cm long, spiny, hairless. The following species are probably best treated as synonymous or subspecies of S. inermis:
*Selenicereus rubineus Mexico. Stems 4-5-ribbed. Flowers 18 cm. wide, 18–19 cm long, inner and outer inner tepals flushed ruby-red near base.
*Selenicereus wercklei Costa Rica. Stem with 6-12 low ribs. Flower 15–16 cm long, spiny, hairless. Selenicereus wercklei8BHAM.jpg
Selenicereus murrillii Mexico. Stems only 8 mm thick, nearly spineless. Flowers 15 cm long, spiny, hairless. Closely related to S. spinulous and S. inermis (sensu lat.). Selenicereus murrillii.jpg
Selenicereus pteranthus
(Link & Otto) Britton & Rose
Two forms are recognized.

f. macdonaldiae - Honduras? Stem ribs tubercled. Flowers 30–34 cm long.
f. pteranthus - Mexico. Stems thick, 4-5-ribbed, spines very short. Flowers 25–30 cm long.

Selenicereus pteranthus 07.jpg
Selenicereus spinulosus
(DC.) Britton & Rose
Texas, Mexico. Stems short-spined. Flowers 8–14 cm long, receptacle spiny, hairless.
Selenicereus vagans Mexico. Flower 15 cm long, receptacle spiny, hairless.
*Selenicereus nelsonii Mexico. Flowers 20 cm long, receptacle hairless, spiny. Probably conspecific with S. vagans. Selenicereus nelsonii.jpg
Selenicereus validus Michoacán, huge nocturnal flowers with bright red fruits. (Mesa Gardens 1244.5936) Selenicereus validus Flower2.jpg

Formerly placed here[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Genus: Selenicereus (A. Berger) Britton & Rose". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2004-02-13. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
  2. ^ "GRIN Species Records of Selenicereus". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2011-04-14.