Espostoopsis dybowskii, photograph by Urs Eggli

Eulychnia is a small genus of mostly candelabra-like cacti restricted to the coastal deserts of Chile and Peru. Eulychnia breviflora attains remarkable size in this coastal fog zone, often forming extensive forests. The age of these giants is unknown, but it is likely they are quite old.

Rudolph Philippi described Eulychnia (type, E. breviflora) in 1860 with one species. The name is from the Greek eu, good, and lychnos, lamp, thus a good lampstand. The stems of cacti have unique idioblastic sclereids, thick-walled cells that differ in size, shape, or function from those in the surrounding tissue (Nyffeler et al. 1997), and there is little disagreement among researchers that Eulychnia is a distinct genus within the tribe Notocacteae. Fourteen species have been described but only five are accepted here. Beat Leuen-berger and Urs Eggli (2000) have considered some of the tax-onomic problems of the genus. Flowers are produced during summer, and they remain open both day and night.

Eulychnia Philippi i860 Philippicereus Backeberg 1942

Subfamily Cactoideae, tribe Notocacteae. Plants shrubs or treelike, freely branching, sometimes with distinct trunks. Stems straight, ascending or procumbent. Ribs 9-16. Areoles with wool or long hairs. Spines often stout and long. Flowers borne near the stem tips, small, bell shaped to funnelform, open during the day and night, white to pink; pericarpels and very short floral tubes with woolly hairs or bristly spines and covered with scales. Fruits globose, fleshy, scaly or hairy, rarely spiny. Seeds broadly oval, dull black or gray, warty. Distribution: along the coast of northern Chile and southern Peru, rarely reaching elevations above 1000 m (3300 ft).

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