Green Finger, Fairytale Castle, Fairy Castles, Barbed Wire Cactus, Etc.
Acanthocereus tetragonus ‘Fairytale Castle’
Synonyms of Acanthocereus tetragonis (29) (Updated on 11-6-21 from Plants of the World Online): Acanthocereus baxaniensis (Karw. ex Pfeiff.) Borg, Acanthocereus colombianus Britton & Rose, Acanthocereus floridanus Small ex Britton & Rose, Acanthocereus horridus Britton & Rose, Acanthocereus occidentalis Britton & Rose, Acanthocereus pentagonus (L.) Britton & Rose, Acanthocereus pitajaya (DC.) Dugand ex Croizat, Acanthocereus princeps (Pfeiff.) Backeb., Acanthocereus subinermis Britton & Rose, Acanthocereus tetragonus var. micracanthus Dugand, Cactus pentagonus L., Cactus prismaticus Willd., Cactus reptans Salm-Dyck ex DC., Cactus tetragonus L., Cereus baxaniensis Karw. ex Pfeiff., Cereus baxaniensis f. pellucidus (Otto) Schelle, Cereus dussii K.Schum., Cereus horribilis A.Berger, Cereus nitidus Salm-Dyck, Cereus pentagonus (L.) Haw., Cereus pitajaya DC., Cereus princeps Pfeiff., Cereus prismaticus (Willd.) Haw. ex Steud., Cereus reptans Haw. ex Steud., Cereus tetragonus (L.) Mill., Cereus tetragonus var. minor Salm-Dyck, Cereus undulatus Pfeiff., Cereus variabilis Engelm., Cereus vasmerii Young
Not to be confused with Cereus hildmannianus subsp. uruguayanus ‘Fairy Castle’. They are two separate monstrose forms of two species with similar characteristics. I have both and I can see there are differences (but sometimes I wonder…).
Acanthocereus tetragonus (L.) Hummelinck is also an accepted scientific name. It was described by Pieter Wagenaar Hummelinck in Succulenta (Netherlands) in 1938. The species was first named and described as Cactus tetragonus by Carl von Linnaeus in the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
The genus, Acanthocereus (Engelm. ex A.Berger) Britton & Rose was named and described as such by Nathaniel Lord Britton and Joseph Nelson Rose in Contributions from the United States National Herbarium in 1909. Georg (George) Engelmann and Alwin Berger previously named the genus in 1905 but put it in a subsection of Cereus. Actually, Engelmann probably named it at a previous date then Berger published the name with Engelmann’s description in the Annual Report of the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1905.
As of 11-6-21 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew currently list 15 accepted species of Acanthocereus. It is a member of the plant family Cactaceae with 146 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made.
There is a little confusion between Acanthocereus tetragonus and Cereus hildmannianus subsp. uruguayanus. When I first bought my Cereus hildmannianus subsp. uruguayanus it was unlabeled. I posted photos of it on a Facebook group and was told it was Cereus hildmannianus subsp. uruguayanus and they said the common name was Fairy Castles. Then, when I was doing research on the Acanthocereus tetragonus, I found one of its common names is Fairytale Castle… I am no cactus expert, but I do like correct information to pass on. If I am confused, then the information I pass on is also confusing. One of their pages about Cereus hildmannianus subsp. uruguayanus has photos of Acanthocereus tetragonus… Well, there are several websites that have photos of one with the name of the other. But, from experience having both, they look different. Both species in the wild grow very tall, but they apparently both have “miniature versions” or cultivars which is where the name Fairy Castles and Fairytale Castles comes from. These miniature versions appear to be monstrous forms.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AND GROWING RECOMMENDATIONS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING.
The LLIFLE (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) says this in the description of Acanthocereus tetragonus cv. Fairytale Castle:
“Fairytale castle”, “Fairy Castle” or “Green finger” cactus is the evocative name by which this common succulent plant is marketed and refers to the numerous vertical stems of different heights that resemble spires and turrets. This diminutive cultivars ‘Fairy Castle’ was discovered in cultivation and is a very popular plant often found in the succulent part of the box retail stores. Some experts classify the cactus as a monstrous form of Acanthocereus tetragonus (Acanthocereus floridianus), but the true self of this plant is controversial and some suggest that it may be a form of Cereus hildmannianus or even a dwarf form of Cereus hildmannianus subs. uruguayanus. Whichever scientific name is correct, the plant is a delightful cactus.”
I picked this Acanthocereus tetragonus up at Wagler’s Greenhouse in September 2018. I think I had one of these in 2015, which I think also came from Wagler’s which was also unnamed. I gave up most of my plants a few years ago, so out it went. So, I decided to bring this one home.
I always measure the cactus when I bring them inside for the winter. So, on October 10 (2018) this plant measured 3″ tall x 2″ wide.
One website says their Acanthocereus tetragonus ‘Fairy Castles’ is 10 years old and it has only grown to 18″.
We had a couple of warm days so I took the cactus outside for a photoshoot on November 29
Acanthocereus tetragonus is a ribbed, five-sided, columnar growing cactus. The areoles produce short hair-like spines with small tufts of wool.
We made it through the winter and the potted plants have been enjoying the outdoors since about May.
I had to move the potted plants inside on October 11 because the forecast was calling for a “widespread frost”. As always, I photographed all the potted plants one last time outside and measured the cactus and most of the succulents. The Acanthocereus tetragonus measured 4 1/2″ tall x 2 7/8″ wide. It was 3″ tall x 2″ wide last October 10. That’s pretty good and the offsets grew A LOT. The plant has been in full sun on the back porch all summer which is why it looks like it does. If it were in more shade it may not have changed color…
The Acanthocereus tetragonus spent 2020 on the front porch with most of the succulents. It wasn’t in full sun in 2020 so it greened up a bit instead of getting a suntan. I had to bring the potted plants inside for the winter on October 15 because an “F” was in the forecast. As always, I measured and photographed the cactus and some of the succulents. The Acanthocereus tetragonus measured 4 3/4″ tall x 2 3/4″ wide so it did grow a little.
The Acanthocereus tetragonus did very well over the summer and grew to 5″ tall and is still 2 3/4″ wide. It probably would have grown taller but apparently, the top of the tallest stem broke off… Even at that, it is 3/4″ taller than when it was last measured on October 15 in 2020.
Origin: The species is native to Florida & Texas in the United States, Mexico, northern South America, Panama…
Zones: USDA Zones 10-11 (30-40° F) (possibly to 9a)
Size: Ummm… The species can grow quite tall in the wild, but this monstruosus cultivar remains much smaller.
*Light: Sun to part shade
**Soil: Well-draining soil. Potting soil amended pumice or perlite and grit.
***Water: Average water needs during the growing season, barely in winter.
*During the summer, I keep most of my cactus on the back deck where they receive full sun. During the winter most cactus aren’t picky about the light because they are basically dormant. For several winters, mine were in front of the east-facing sliding door in the dining room so they didn’t get much light but they did great. I built a new shelf for the bedroom so now they are in front of a west-facing window. Most of the succulents are on a shelf in a south-facing window in a cool bedroom but a few are in my bedroom.
**When it comes to potting soil, finding the “sweet spot” is not exactly that easy when materials are limited. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts (and experts) do not recommend using peat-based commercial mixes but what choice is there for most of us. They say to use a loam-based mix… Hmmm… Our soil is loam, so do I just use dirt? Well, no because “dirt” is heavy and you need a “light” material. There is A LOT of cactus and succulent recipes online and some get pretty elaborate. Many say to use sand as an ingredient, but if you do that, it needs to be very coarse, like builders sand, because “ordinary” sand, like for sandboxes, is too fine and it clogs up the air space between the coarser ingredients. For MANY years I used 2 parts Miracle Grow or Schultz Potting amended with an additional 1 part of perlite and 1 part chicken grit. Schultz doesn’t seem to have as many large pieces of bark. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts recommended using pumice instead of perlite and grit so I checked it out… The “guy” at General Pumice (online) recommended using a 50/50 mix of potting soil and pumice. General Pumice has 3 different sizes to choose from depending on the size of the pot. SO, in 2018 I bought a bag of 1/8″ and mixed it 50/50 with Miracle Grow Potting Soil. I liked it pretty well. Then in 2020, since most of the cactus were in larger pots, I ordered the 1/4″ size. Pumice has a lot of benefits over perlite and has nutrients that are added to the soil when watering. Pumice is also heavier so it stays mixed in the soil instead of “floating” to the top. Still, there is the issue of the mix getting very hard once you stop watering the plants during the winter when you stop watering. I think this is because of the peat in the potting soil… SO, instead of re-potting the cactus and succulents in the spring, I started doing it during the fall and winter so their soil would be loose. Since you don’t water as frequently during the winter if at all, the timed-release fertilizer does not activate. I have not tried coir, but I am looking into it…
You have to sort of mimic the soil where species grow in their native habitat. For that, you almost have to go see for yourself… Typically, they grow in fairly rocky soil.
***I water my cactus and succulents on a regular basis during the summer but barely ever in the winter (maybe a little in January) until close to time to take them back outside.
When you bring your new plants home from the store, you need to check their roots and the soil to see if they are wet. If so, you may want to re-pot it right away. It is advisable to re-pot them in a better potting soil more suitable for cactus and succulents.
I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant. Some sites may use previously accepted names such as Cereus tetragonus.