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The term cereus is used to describe cacti with very elongated bodies, including columnar growth cacti and epiphytic cacti.
According Cactiguide the word cereus was commonly and freely used to describe any tree-like cacti.
Even in the Cactus and Succulent society, the word cereus was commonly used to describe most tall green columnar cacti.
Newer members would ask the experienced ones, What type of cereus is that? or Can I have a cutting of that cereus in your front yard?
This generic use of the word cereus is in this sense misleading and the word ceroid or ceriform should be used instead.
The name Cereus originates in a book by Tabernaemontanus published in 1625 and refers to the candle-like form of species Cereus hexagonus.
Regularly having been described by Philip Miller in 1754, and included all known cacti with very elongated bodies.
Ludwig Pfeiffer in 1838 divided Cephalocereus (type Cephalocereus senilis), the name is derived from the Greek cephale, head, thus headed cereus, referring to the hairy pseudocephalium.
Charles Lemaire described Pilocereus in 1839, now is renamed as Pilosocereus.
The name Pilocereus is derived from the Greek pilos, felted, hairy, thus hairy cereus, similar to the Latin pilosus, from which the name Pilosocereus was derived.
Genus Echinocereus (type Echinocereus viridiflorus) was described in 1848 by George Engelmann, the name is derived from the Greek echinos, hedgehog or sea urchin. Britton & Rose (1919-1923) and Alwin Berger (1929) continued to divide Cereus into many genera.
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