Trichocereus deserticolus, also known as Echinopsis deserticola, is a columnar cactus from Chile. This species also includes Trichocereus fulvilanus / Echinopsis fulvilana as a subspecies of Echinopsis deserticola now.
Trichocereus deserticolus is a plant with a complicated and close relationship to Trichocereus fulvilanus, Trichocereus coquimbanus and Trichocereus chalaensis. They get very close to each other sometimes, for example the population between Paposo and El Cobre. Trichocereus fulvilanus grows from Caldera in the north to El Cobre, while Trichocereus deserticola grows from Paposo down in the south to Tocopilla in the north. There are taxonomists or authors that regarded Trichocereus fulvilanus as being unrelated to Trichocereus deserticolus / Echinopsis deserticola, but I do not really share this opinion. Yes, there certainly are differences between Trichocereus deserticolus and Trichocereus fulvilanus, but a blind man could see that both are as closely related as it can get.
Synonyms of E.deserticola:
Echinopsis deserticola, Trichocereus deserticola, Cereus deserticola, Cereus fulvilanus, Echinopsis fulvilanus, Echinopsis fulvilana,Trichocereus deserticolus, Echinopsis deserticolus
Origin of T.deserticolus:
Chile. The type location is Antofagasta. It also grows around Atacama, El cobre, Paposo, Tocopilla, etc. Trichocereus deserticolus grows in a moister climate than Trichocereus fulvilanus, which grows around the coastlines and that prefers a drier climate. Because of that, Trichocereus deserticolus can rather be found in the higher areas around Paposo, where it is extremely common.
Description of Tr. deserticolus:
Trichocereus deserticolus is a branched plant that does not get as big as other Trichocereus species. It´s usually somewhere between 1-2 meters tall, but most of them are around 1 meter.
9-13, with very strong furrows. This plant is somewhat similar to Trichocereus chalaensis, which grows creeping.
The areoles are 1-2 centimeter apart of each other. Trichocereus deserticola usually has 2-3 middle thorns and 18-24 radial thorns. Which are very thin and have a dark brown/reddish color. The epidermis of the skin shows a very weak, pale green color.
Flowers: The flowers are white and a little bit smaller than the ones on other Trichocereus species. The size of the flowers is between 5 and 12 centimeters. They have brown/black hairs and the fruits are round and can be eaten.
In a wider sense, this plant is most likely related to Trichocereus chiloensis as well. However, the exact genetic situation has to be revealed by DNA testing.
Trichocereus deserticolus should be treated just like every other Trichocereus from Chile. It only needs watering during the hot season and requires a soil that dries out very fast. I usually use purely mineral soil mixes and as Chilean Trichocereus species, Trichocereus deserticolus aka Echinopsis deserticola likes it a lot
There are almost no seeds of Trichocereus deserticola available. Sometimes you can get small cuttings on sites like eBay. I sometimes have seeds of this species available and I can recommend that you join our Trichocereus group or Newsletter to stay in touch.
Trichocereus deserticolus should not be kept at temperatures below -5° Celsius and the plants have to be completely dry if you want to overwinter them at a cold climate. A perfect overwintering temperature is around 10° celsius, which is something around 50° Fahrenheit. The plants should be kept at a bright and well ventilated area.
By Leonora Enking
Photos below: Pedro Lopez Artes
Below: The subspecies Tr.deserticolus ssp. fulvilanus
by Michael Wolf