Moon cactus

Moon cactus

Harrisia martinii (Cactaceae)

Common Name:

Moon cactus

Scientific Name:

Harrisia martinii (Cactaceae)

Alternative common names:

Torch cactus (English); toukaktus; kabelkaktus (Afrikaans)


Spiny, succulent shrub 1-3m high with long, much-branched stems often arching downwards and rooting where they touch the ground. Spines in groups, with one or two central spines much longer than the others. No leaves. Showy white nocturnal flowers appear from November to January. Bright pinkish-red, succulent berries

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

South America (Argentina)

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

CARA 2002 - Category 1 NEMBA - Category 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Gauteng

How does it spread?

Seed dispersal

Why is it a problem?

Competes with indigenous species. In savanna it grows under the crowns of trees, thus barring access to shade for domestic and wild animals. Where it has started forming infestations it reduces the carrying capacity of the land and its many spines can cause injuries to grazing animals Spines cause irritation to skin

What does it look like?

General description: An untidy straggly and spreading succulent reaching a height of 1,5m with prominent spiky thorns.
Leaves: No leaves, spines in groups.
Flowers: Showy white nocturnal flowers from November to January.
Fruit/seeds: Bright pinkish-red, succulent berries.

Does the plant have any uses?

Ornament. Birds eat the fruits

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