Snake cactus – Peniocereus serpentinus

Snake cactus

Peniocereus serpentinus (= Nyctocereus serpentinus)

Common Name:

Snake cactus

Scientific Name:

Peniocereus serpentinus (= Nyctocereus serpentinus)

Alternative common names:

Serpent cactus; slangkaktus (Afr.)


Erect stems 2-3 metres tall with 10-12 slightly rounded ribs. Spines are soft, long and interlacing and white or brown in colour. Flowers open at night and are white inside and tinged with red on the outside. Floral tubes are up to 25 cm long. The fruit turns red and has a reddish pulp inside with large black seeds.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?


What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Savanna of North West and Limpopo Province and karoo regions of the Eastern and Northern Cape.

How does it spread?

Through seed dispersal and plant fragments.

Why is it a problem?

Forms dense clusters at the expense of indigenous grasses and shrubs. Devalues agricultural land.

What does it look like?

Does the plant have any uses?