The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Pelecyphora aselliformis Ehrenberg


False Peyote, Peyotillo




Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Forms and Subspecies






Folk Names


Asselkaktus, falscher peyote, false peyote, hatchet cactus, peotillo, peyote (see Lophophora williamsii), peyote meco, peyotillo, piote



Indians of northern Mexico once used this relatively rare cactus in a similar manner to or as a substitute for peyote (see Lophophora williamsii).

The first botanical description of the psycho-active cactus was made by the Berlin physician and botanist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg (1795– 1876). A powder of the cactus was formerly sold in Paris under the name poudre de peyote, “peyote powder.”



This cactus occurs only in northern Mexico (San Luis Potosí) (Preston-Mafham 1995, 167*; Zander 1994, 422*).



The plant is propagated from seeds, which are planted in the same manner as those of Lophophora williamsii.



This solitary cactus can grow to a height of 10 cm. It has a round form with lateral, flattened tubercles that are arranged in a spiral fashion and have scalelike pectinate spines. Because of this, the cactus sometimes resembles a deeply convoluted brain. The flowers are up to 3 cm across and are bright violet. The fruits are red pods.

Peyotillo can easily be confused with the closely related species Pelecyphora strobiliformis (Werderm.) Kreuz. [syn. Ariocarpus strobiliformis Werderm., Encephalocarpus strobiliformis (Werderm.) Berger; cf. Ariocarpus fissuratus], which is found in Nuevo León (Mexico) (Preston-Mafham 1995, 167*). Another very similar species is Pelecyphora pseudopectinata Backeb. [syn. Neolloydia pseudopectinata(Backeb.) Anderson, Turbinicarpus pseudopectinatus (Backeb.) Glass et Foster]; in Tamaulipas, this cactus is also called peyote (Díaz 1979, 90*). Turbinicarpus valdezianus (Moell.) Glass et Foster [syn. Pelecyphora valdezianus Moell.] is also quite similar, but it is smaller (growing to a height of only 2.5 cm) and occurs in Coahuila (Preston-Mafham 1995, 194*).


The rare Mexican hatchet cactus (Pelecyphora aselliformis) produces peyote-like effects.


Psychoactive Material


—Fresh or dried cactus flesh (buttons)

Preparation and Dosage


The flesh of the cactus (the aboveground portion or the head) can be eaten fresh or dried. No information concerning dosages is known.

Ritual Use


Only as a peyote substitute (see Lophophora williamsii)



See Lophophora williamsii.

Medicinal Use


See Lophophora williamsii.



The cactus contains hordenine, anhalidine, pellotine, 3-dimethyltrichocerine, some mescalineN-methylmescaline, and other β-phenethylamines (Mata and McLaughlin 1982, 110*; Neal et al. 1972).



One cactus, eaten fresh, is said to produce peyote-like effects (cf. Lophophora williamsii). Although the effects are not quite as dramatic, they do include the typical visual changes and phenomena (William Emboden, pers. comm.).

Commercial Forms and Regulations


This rare cactus is almost never found in the international cactus trade. It may be possible to obtain seeds from ethnobotanical mail-order suppliers.


The rare and beautiful Pelecyphora aselliformis cactus was used as a peyote substitute in Mexico. (Copperplate engraving, colorized, from Jacques Brosse, Great Voyage of Discovery, 1764–1843)




See also the entry for Lophophora williamsii.


Neal, J. M., P. T. Sato, W. N. Howald, and J. L. McLaughlin. 1972. Peyote alkaloids: Identification in the Mexican cactus Pelecyphora aselliformis Ehrenberg. Science 176:1131–33.