Acanthocereus tetragonus
Cereus species is it W IMG 0744.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Genus: Acanthocereus
A. tetragonus
Binomial name
Acanthocereus tetragonus

Acanthocereus pentagonus (L.) Britton & Rose
Acanthocereus pitajaya Croizat
Cactus pentagonus L.
Cactus tetragonus L.[2]
Cereus pentagonus (L.) Haw.[3]

Acanthocereus tetragonus, is a species of cactus that is native to Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. The species is invasive in New Caledonia.[4] Common names include night-blooming cereus,[5]barbed-wire cactus,[2]sword-pear,[2]dildo cactus,[6]triangle cactus,[2] and Órgano-alado de pitaya (Spanish).[3] It was originally described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 as Cactus tetragonus but was moved to the genus Acanthocereus in 1938 by Pieter Wagenaar Hummelinck.[2]


Acanthocereus tetragonus is a tall, columnar cactus that reaches a height of 2–7 m (6.6–23.0 ft). Stems are dark green, have three to five angles, and are 6–8 cm (2.4–3.1 in) in diameter. Areoles are grey and separated by 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in). Central areoles have one to two spines up to 4 cm (1.6 in) long, while radial areoles have six to eight spines up to 2.5 cm (0.98 in) in length.[7] The flowers are 14–20 cm (5.5–7.9 in) in diameter with a tube 8–15 cm (3.1–5.9 in) in length.[8] Outer tepals are greenish-white, inner tepals are pure white, and pistils are creamy white. Flowers are open from midnight until dawn, attracting hummingbird moths (Hemaris spp.). The shiny, red fruits are around 5 cm (2.0 in) long.

This highly spiny, often large, and thicket-forming cactus has stems up to 10 feet or possibly taller. It is native to the coastal hammocks and hot, dry coastal habitats and thickets and sandy coastal habitats of central and southern Florida and the Keys, south into the Caribbean. The flowers are showy and are white with a deep red and orange or red-orange center. The flowers bloom at night and close during the day. This cactus blooms a few times a year for several weeks at a time. This cactus often forms thickets in coastal hammocks which can be impenetrable and spiny.[9]

Open bloom
Fairy castles buds


The Fairy Castle Cactus, also known as Fairytale Castle Cactus is a miniature cultivar of this species. It has many curved branches that resemble the turrets of a castle.[10][11]


Young stems of the barbed-wire cactus can be eaten as a vegetable either cooked or raw,[5] while the fruits are edible and sweet.[9] It is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental. It is sometimes planted as a living fence. The miniature cultivar of this species, Fairy Castle Cactus, is commonly used as an household plant for their adorable size and interestingly unique shape.


  1. ^ Gómez-Hinostrosa, C.; Durán, R.; Tapia, J.L. (2017). "Acanthocereus tetragonus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T152925A119232727. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T152925A119232727.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Acanthocereus tetragonus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-12-04.
  3. ^ a b "Acanthocereus tetragonus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
  4. ^ Hequet, Vanessa (2009). LES ESPÈCES EXOTIQUES ENVAHISSANTES DE NOUVELLE-CALÉDONIE (PDF) (in French). p. 17.
  5. ^ a b King, Ken; Christina Mild (October 2009). "Barbwire Cactus" (PDF). The Sabal. 26 (7): 4–5.
  6. ^ "Dildo Key". Key Names Gazetteer. Florida International University Digital Collections Center. Retrieved October 6, 2010.
  7. ^ Anderson, Edward F. (2001). The Cactus Family. Timber Press. pp. 107–108. ISBN 978-0-88192-498-5.
  8. ^ Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). "Acanthocereus tetragonus". Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). New York and Oxford. Retrieved 2009-12-04 – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  9. ^ a b "Acanthocereus tetragonus (L.) Humm". Native Plant Information Network. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Retrieved 2009-12-04.
  10. ^ Lemke, Cal. "Acanthocereus tetragonus 'Fairy Castles' - Fairy Castle Cactus". Cal's Plant of the Week. Retrieved 2009-12-04.
  11. ^ "Cereus cv. Fairy Castle". Retrieved 2021-09-07.

External links