Garambullo: Characteristics, Habitat, Uses, Care

The garambullo ( Myrtillocactus geometrizans ) is a species of branched cactus with a bushy appearance belonging to the Cactaceae family. It is commonly known as myrtle cactus, blue candelabrum, garambullo, myrtle cactus, paternoster or kisk.

This species is native to Mexican xerophilic regions and since ancient times it has been consumed fresh by indigenous populations. The flowers and fruits are edible, being used to make jellies, jams, liqueurs, ice creams and traditional dishes.

Its fruit is a small berry with a particular bittersweet flavor due to the high content of betalains, secondary nitrogenous metabolites rich in betacyanins and betaxanthins. These compounds are pigments of high nutritional value that are obtained industrially from beets ( Beta vulgaris ).

The high content of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants makes it suitable for the treatment of diabetes and the prevention of cancer. In addition, it protects against cardiovascular diseases, relieves gastrointestinal problems and stomach and intestinal discomfort.

Currently, garambullo is obtained from wild populations in its place of origin. It is a multipurpose and abundant plant in arid and semi-arid areas with a wide distribution that is usually protected by local inhabitants.

General characteristics


Myrtillocactus geometrizans is a perennial fleshy arborescent species with abundant spines that can reach 2-8 m in height. It presents numerous branches from a short trunk acquiring the appearance of a candelabrum.

The bluish-green stems are 6-12 cm thick with 6-8 prominent longitudinal ribs with numerous spines. Around the areolas or ends of the spines develop whitish-brown wool flakes.

The areolas are evenly distributed along the ribs with a dark gray central spine 1-3 cm long. The short -1 cm- and thin radial spines, reddish when young, then gray, are arranged in 5-8 units.

The small flowers -3 cm- with free and elongated petals of yellowish-white or yellowish-white tones grow in the axillary position. The fruits are globose, 8-15 mm in diameter, crimson red, purple or purple with apparent spines.

Inside the fruit, the juicy purple pulp has an oval and rough seed. This black seed, 1-2 mm wide, with a rough texture, has a taste similar to prickly pear, prickly pear or nopal.


  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
  • Division: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Magnoliopsida
  • Subclass: Caryophyllidae
  • Order: Caryophyllales
  • Family: Cactaceae
  • Subfamily: Cactoideae
  • Tribe: Pachycereeae
  • Genus: Myrtillocactus
  • Species: Myrtillocactus geometrizans (Mart. Ex Pfeiff.) Console


The name of the genus Myrtillocactus derives from the Greek and refers to the resemblance of its fruits to those of the myrtle or blueberry.


  • Cereus geometrizans
  • Cereus pugioniferus
  • Myrtillocactus pugionifer
  • Myrtillocactus grandiareolatus.

Distribution and habitat

The garambullo is an endemic cactus of Mexico, it grows in arid and semi-arid Mesoamerican regions, being abundant in desert plains where it forms colonies. In Mexico it is distributed from Oaxaca to Tamaulipas, being frequent in the mosques of Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán and Zacatecas.

It is found in the wild in desert areas, xerophilous scrub and dry deciduous forests of central Mexico. It is a species that adapts to a dry climate and tolerates direct solar radiation in summer, however, it is susceptible to frost.

It is a plant that developed and adapted to loose limestone and gypsum soils with high saline concentration and basic pH. The arid zones where the plant grows have an average rainfall of 320-450 mm and an average temperature of 21.2º C per year.


The garambullo is an agricultural resource of high value that has been little used and that deserves its exploitation at an industrial level. The flowers and fruits are consumed for their high nutritional value, with the fruits an artisanal alcoholic drink is made.

The stems are used as a food supplement and forage for animals, trying to eliminate areoles and thorns. Likewise, the fruits and the fruit shell are used for the preparation of silage or for fresh consumption by ruminants.

The plant is used in risk areas to protect soils against erosion, increase organic matter and stabilize sandbanks. It has the property of capturing CO 2 being an ideal species to combat climate change, in addition to providing food and protection to wildlife.

The dry logs are used to make artisan utensils and as firewood for combustion. From the dried and ground fruits pigments of different shades are obtained to dye fabrics and traditional clothing.

The fruits are used to facilitate the fermentation of -pulque-, a traditional Mexican drink made from maguey. The flowers are used in artisan cooking cooked as vegetables or dressings in stews and soups.

In traditional medicine, the healing properties of garambullo are effective for the treatment of diabetes, ulcers and some types of cancer.


The garambullo reproduces vegetatively through cuttings from succulent stems or sexually through seeds. In vegetative propagation at the nursery level, this species is used as rootstock for other ornamental cactus species.

It multiplies best by seed, as cuttings sometimes do not root if they do not maintain continuous background heat. When selecting cuttings, the complete healing of the cut must be ensured to avoid rotting at the time of transplanting.

In pots and gardens, this species requires little care due to its rusticity and resistance to extreme conditions. For pots, it can be sown with other species, on a sandy, limestone, loose and well-drained material.

It develops better in full sun exposure and supports water deficiencies, so abundant and spaced waterings are suggested. In winter, watering is not advisable to avoid rotting of roots and stems; supports saline soils, but is susceptible to frost.

It is recommended to fertilize with a nitrogen-based fertilizer, once a month during the cool months -spring and summer-. Although the garambullo is a rustic plant, it can be attacked by some pests such as mealybugs ( Planococcus citri, Rhizoecus sp. ).


  1. Durán Rodríguez, P. (2014). Possible benefits of consuming garambullo (Myrtillocactus geometrizans.) On gastritis, taking as a reference the healing properties of nopal and aloe vera. Antonio Narro Autonomous Agrarian University (Graduate Thesis).
  2. Garambullo: Myrtillocactus geometrizans (2019) rioMoros. Recovered at:
  3. Guerrero-Chavez, G., Ancos, BD, Sánchez-Moreno, C., Cano, MP, Mercado-Silva, E., & Guzmán-Maldonado, HS (2010). Identification of betalain pigments of u fruits (Myrtillocactus geometrizans) by HPLC-DAD-ESI-MS. Rev. Iber. Postharvest Technology Vol 11 (1): 1-152 16 (Special Edition)
  4. Hernández, M., Terrazas, T., Alvarado, AD, & Cavazos, ML (2007). The stomata of Myrtillocactus geometrizans (Mart. Ex. Pfeiff.) Console (Cactaceae): variation in their area of ​​distribution. Magazine Fitotecnia Mexicana, 30 (3), 235-240.
  5. Rojas-Aréchiga, Mariana & Mandujano, María (2013) Aspects about the germination of Myrtillocactus geometrizans, Stenocereus dumortieri and Echinocereus cinerascens. Cact Suc Mex (2013) 58 (4): 118-126.
  6. Myrtillocactus geometrizans (2018) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Recovered at:

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