The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Pelecyphora aselliformis Ehrenberg

 

False Peyote, Peyotillo

 

Family

 

Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Forms and Subspecies

 

None

Synonyms

 

None

Folk Names

 

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

History

 

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.”

Distribution

 

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

Cultivation

 

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

Appearance

 

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)

Artifacts

 

See Lophophora williamsii.

Medicinal Use

 

See Lophophora williamsii.

Constituents

 

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

Effects

 

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)

 

Literature

 

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.