Echinocereus schmollii

Echinocereus schmollii dragon fruit tree

Echinocereus schmollii (also known as Cereus schmollii, Wilcoxia nerispina, Wilcoxia schmollii, pitaya, pitahaya, dragon fruit or Lamb’s-Tail Cactus) is a species of cactus first described by Weing, and given its current name by Nigel Paul Taylor. Echinocereus schmollii is a member of the genus Echinocereus and the cactus family.

Echinocereus: generic name derived from the ancient Greek: ἐχῖνος (echinos), meaning “hedgehog”, and from the Latin cereus meaning “wax candle”, where it refers to its bristly columnar stems. The folk name is “cactus pencil”, given because of the unusual shape of the stems.


Mexican origin and habitat (Queretaro). Echinocereus schmollii is currently only found in eleven restricted and localized populations spread across two isolated tiny locations in the southern Chihuahuan Desert. This species’ small and restricted population (less than 250 mature individuals) and small area of occurrence (less than 1,000 km2), as well as the fact that illicit gathering and habitat degradation are causing population declines, make it an endangered species.

It occurs on a mesa area, which is a flat area, at heights between 1,660 and 1,890 meters above sea level.

This plant can only tolerate a small range of soil types and lives in semi-desert areas. Even when individuals are large enough to generate blooms, it is difficult to develop seeds and blossoms. In the wild, vegetative reproduction is primarily responsible for population regeneration. It occasionally grows with Digitostigma caput-medusae.

Plant habit:Cactus / succulent
Cold wintering: No
Life cycle:Perennial
Conservation status: Endangered

In the past, anthropogenic activities including building roads, starting fires, removing vegetation, farming, and degrading the soil have all posed a threat to the populations of this species. Habitat degradation brought on by mining activities is currently the main danger, and more mining is anticipated in the future. It is particularly vulnerable to agricultural activity because it thrives mostly in flat places.

As we say the first description as Cereus schmollii was published in 1931 by Wilhelm Weingart. Nigel Paul Taylor placed the species in the genus Echinocereus in 1985. A nomenclatural synonym is Wilcoxia schmollii (Weing.) F.M.Knuth (1936). The species belongs to the section Wilcoxia.

Wilcoxia nerispina is listed in Appendix I of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. In the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the species is listed as Endangered, i.e., critically endangered.

How to grow and care

Echinocereus schmollii is a small, typically solitary or sparsely branching cactus with tuberous roots and thin, limp stems. In the natural, it depends on host bush branches for support; in cultivation, the stem tends to slither around if it is not supported by sticks.

Lamb’s-Tail Cactus is said to be difficult to cultivate and rather uncommon in terms of propagation. It enjoys routine irrigation during the growing season, but do not overwater.

Best in full or partial sunlight exposure. They thrive when grown outside in open spaces with well-drained soil in moderate climates.

In order to maintain humidity, sow the Wilcoxia nerispina seeds on the top of a well-draining potting mix and cover the soil with plastic wrap or a plastic bag. For best results, maintain the soil between 70°F and 80°F, moist but not completely wet. Once the seeds have germinated, gradually uncover them over a few days to let the seedlings become used to the surrounding humidity. It normally takes 5 to 160 days for germination to occur. Germination could be intermittent and delayed even in ideal circumstances.

Maintenance: It may go into dormancy during the winter, in which case no watering is needed and the plants should be cultivated cool and dry (at -5 +10°C). Both the health of the flowers and its importance make this crucial. It typically won’t bear any buds if the winter isn’t cool.

Plant facts

  • Stem: 25 cm long, 1 cm wide, with 9–10 rounded tuberculate ribs, pencil-like, thin, cylindrical, initially erect, subsequently sprawling or clambering;
  • 1.5 mm broad and 2 mm apart areoles;
  • Up to 35 hair-like, extremely thin, 3–7 mm long, pinkish to whitish-grey spines with reddish tips give the stem a woolly look;
  • Showy, funnel-shaped, pink to magenta flowers that are 3-5 cm long and 5-6 cm wide are found close to the tips of older stems;
  • Flowers may be easily grown and typically bloom in waves throughout the summer;
  • The lowest temperature (ºC) this cactus can tolerate is typically: 10;
  • Fruit: Juicy, ovoid or roundish, green with a purple tint;
  • Needs excellent drainage in pots


Echinocereus schmollii usually grows individually with cylindrical, slightly blackish purple stems that reach lengths of up to 25 cm. Its roots are slightly thickened. It has nine to ten rounded ribs that are tubercles and up to 35 hair-like spines that are more or less pinkish and give the shoots a woolly appearance. They are white or dark in color and up to 7 millimeters long.

echinocereus schmollii flowers photo

The flowers are funnel-shaped and bright pink and appear near the shoot tips. They are 3 to 5 centimeters long and reach a diameter of up to 6 centimeters. The fruit is oval to spherical, juicy and light purple-green in color. It is a rare species in collections.


Can the fruit of these cacti really be called a dragonfruit?
Yes, U.S. Department of Agriculture believes exactly that.
What is Echinocereus schmollii?
This is a cactus that is native to Mexico. It is a member of the Echinocereus genus, which contains about 60 species of cacti.
Where can I find this plant?
This tree can be found in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico.
How can I grow this plant?
It can be grown in the home garden in a pot or in the ground. The plant prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Water the plant deeply, but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out between watering. Apply a balanced fertilizer monthly during the growing season.
Michael Gorelov
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