“Meet the ‘Creeping Devil’: A Fascinating Cactus That Traverses the Desert with its Spiky Features”

The creeping devil, scientifically known as Stenocereus eruca, is a unique member of the cactus family, Cactaceae. This particular cactus stands out due to its distinctive appearance, and belongs to the small genus of Stenocereus. It can only be found in the central Pacific coast of Baja California Sur, particularly on sandy soils where it forms large colonies.

Like other cacti, the creeping devil plant is succulent and has been found to contain mescaline and sterols. It can grow in dispersed patterns as individual stems or, in ideal conditions, can create dense clusters of branching stems that can span several meters and are difficult to penetrate.

The creeping devil cactus is a slender plant with a lot of spines on its stem. Its stem is about 5 cm in diameter and can grow up to 1.5-2 m long. The terminal end of the stem is slightly raised from the ground while the rest of the plant is recumbent, which means it lies flat on the surface. It usually grows up to a height of 20-30 cm.

The plant produces large flowers that bloom at night and are white, pink or yellow in color. They are around 10-14 cm long and have a spiny ovary. These flowers only bloom when it rains. The fruit of the plant is spiny and around 3-4 cm long, containing black seeds.

The creeping devil is a unique cactus that grows by extending at one end while the other end slowly dies. Its growth rate is well-suited to the moderate, moist marine environment of the Baja peninsula, where it can grow more than 60 cm per year. However, if transplanted to a hot, arid environment, it may only grow about 60 cm per decade. Interestingly, over many years, the entire cactus will slowly move as stems branch and take root towards the growing tips, while older portions die off. This growth pattern inspired its name, “eruca,” meaning “caterpillar,” as well as its common name, the creeping devil.

Gibson and Nobel (1986) describe Stenocereus eruca as the most unique example of clonal propagation among cacti. The plant is capable of self-cloning due to its isolation and the lack of pollinators. As the bases of some parts of the shoot start to decay, they detach from the main plant, resulting in the growth of new clones.

In California’s Baja Peninsula, you can come across other members of this genus such as Stenocereus thurberi, also known as Organ Pipe Cactus or Pitaya Dulce, and Stenocereus gummosus, also known as Sour Pitaya, Pitaya Agria, or Pitayha. Despite being previously considered endangered, recent studies have shown that these species are not under threat of extinction. However, it is important to note that transplantation should be avoided due to the specific environmental factors at play. But, if necessary, strict measures must be taken to maintain a habitat that closely resembles their natural environment for successful transplantation.

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