Armatocereus is probably related to the several other columnar, mainly treelike cacti of South America such as Brown-ingia, Neoraimondia, and Stetsonia. It may also be the closest relative of Jasminocereus from the Galápagos Islands. Two publications have shed some light on the taxonomy of Armatocereus. Jens Madsen (1989) dealt with those species found in Ecuador, and David Hunt (1991 d) helped clarify a confusing situation with regard to the nomenclature of several species. The genus was described by Curt Backeberg in 1935 but was not validated with a Latin description until June 1938.
The name Armatocereus is derived from the Latin, arma, weapons, and means armed cereus. There is still some confusion among researchers as to the number of species, but 13 (type, Cactus laetus = A. laetus) are included here. Clearly, the genus needs further study. Armatocereus is characterized as having segmented, cylindrical stems, most of which are well armed. Flowers open at night and may be borne either laterally or at stem tips; they are produced in summer and most are white.
Subfamily Cactoideae, tribe Browningieae. Plants shrubby ortree-like. Stems columnar, constricted annually so more or less jointed, erect or ascending, stout. Ribs 3-16, strongly developed. Areoles large. Spines usually stout, rarely weak or absent. Flowers open at night, fairly large, tubularto narrowly funnelform, white or rarely red; perianth parts not strongly flared; areoles of pericarpels and floral tubes felted and usually spiny; stamens inserted in the throat and upper part of the floral tubes. Fruits large, globose to ovoid, red or green, with white and fleshy pulp, spines falling away at maturity; perianth parts persistent. Seeds large, ovoid to kidney shaped, black. Distribution: mainly the Andes of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
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