Crested San Pedro
2 min

Crested San Pedro: What Is It?

2 min

The crested San Pedro cactus is the visually stunning mescaline cactus of Peru. Beloved by psychonauts and ordinary horticulture enthusiasts, we take a closer look at this trippy cactus.


The San Pedro cactus is the second most famous mescaline cacti species after peyote. While peyote is more commonly associated with the native tribes of North America, San Pedro has been revered by South American shaman for thousands of years.

Some researchers say the use of San Pedro for ritualistic purposes dates back 3000 years; others claim as far back as 7000 years. All we can be sure of is that the use of San Pedro is truly ancient, yet still common today.

Precisely how ancient is a debate for anthropologists. Saint Peter, after whom the cactus is named, was reputed to hold the keys to heaven. For the Amazonian shaman, the cactus is a gateway to a deeper understanding of reality.


What Is Fasciation / Cristation?

The San Pedro cactus or “Trichocereus pachanoi” normally grows into a typical tree shape with many side branches growing from the lower trunk. Heights of up to 6m are not uncommon, and the cactus can spread itself close to 2m.

However, the crested San Pedro, albeit a rarer specimen, is even more visually stunning. “Cristation” or “fasciation” is the unusual growth pattern that causes the main stem to take on a brain lobe appearance. Instead of ordinary vertical growth, a flattened tip with ribbons or folds develops and fills out laterally. Fasciation is not unique to the San Pedro, having been observed in at least 100 different plant species.

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Nobody has pinned down the precise cause of cristation. Many possible reasons have been suggested, from an inherited genetic mutation to bacterial infection. To date, no botanist can say with 100% certainty what makes the crested San Pedro develop its brain-lobed head.

Aside from the peculiar meristem, a thicker and heavier trunk tends to develop below. Crested plants often look like two stems have fused together. But in fact, the single stem fattens and gains a greater circumference to give this effect. This extraordinary trait is a genuine unsolved mystery.

San Pedro Crested (Echinopsis Pachanoi Cristata)


As mentioned above, fasciation could possibly be inherited. When a fasciated plant is cloned, the trait is transferred to the rooted cutting. Moreover, when a new branch grows on the original fasciated plant, the condition also returns. This suggests the potential of a genetically inherited characteristic. Cacti, like all vascular plants, can potentially express fasciation. The San Pedro is merely one example of a plant species that can randomly express cristation.


Religious Use Of San Pedro

The San Pedro cactus is imbibed either as a sludge-like beverage or in powder form. The mescaline is contained in the highest concentration just beneath the skin of the cactus. Typically, San Pedro is chopped into star-shaped slivers and boiled in water for at least 8 hours when prepared as a liquid. The powder form is more laborious to process, and can take days to prepare.

Ancient tribal practices and elements of Catholicism are fused together in a San Pedro ceremony. The shaman will set a table with swords driven through it, which effectively serves as a San Pedro altar. Potency varies widely, so the dosage is never precise. Usually, a single cup full of the thick slimy liquid is consumed by participants. Effects will last somewhere between 8-12 hours and are best described as a hallucinogenic experience. Nausea is the first indication the mescaline is taking hold.

An initial vomiting purge is believed to expel the negative energies. Following this, the journey to the middle-plane begins. This can be spiritually dangerous or enlightening. The swords through the table are symbols of protection to ward-off dark forces.

Crucifixes and tribal idols also adorn the table. However, it is the user’s mindset that is most important to ensure a positive vision. Energies and thoughts will be carried to the middle-plane, so a positive frame of mind is essential. Similar to a magic mushroom trip, the positive or the negative will be amplified and induce either a good or bad trip.

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San Pedro is supposed to help a person find the internal answers to the external questions of life. The journey is very much an internal one. The answers come from within, rather than from external forces. Sometimes a smoke from a tobacco pipe is incorporated into the ceremony to help the user on their way. As the effects of San Pedro are relatively long-lasting, at least one person will remain sober and look out for the rest of the group under the influence. Consuming San Pedro alone is not recommended.

Miguel Antonio Ordoñez
Miguel Antonio Ordoñez
With an AB Mass Media and Communications degree, Miguel Ordoñez is a veteran writer of 13 years and counting and has been covering cannabis-related content since 2017. Continuous, meticulous research along with personal experience has helped him build a deep well of knowledge on the subject.
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