Alexander the Great needed one short moment to cut the Gordian knot. We needed nearly 15 years to solve the nomenclatural confusion of the genus Coryphantha and to write this monograph.
Early on, we succumbed to the fascination of cacti. For most genera, specific literature and monographs were available which, despite many contradictions, opened up the background for a plant collection. However, for Coryphantha spp., which attracted us especially by their wonderful spination and large flowers, nothing existed.
In the late 1980s, both of us approached the problem of Coryphantha spp. independently. Later, by chance, we discovered our common interest during a small discussion at our cactus club, the Solothurn local group of the Swiss Cactus Society, and decided to combine our efforts.
In the beginning, we were very confident and light-hearted and ignored all the warnings of benevolent field researchers and botanists to keep clear of this genus. Fortunately, we only detected the extent of the existing problems as time passed and we were already smitten with the subject.
Had we not worked as a team, we certainly would have given up very early.We will always remember all those innumerable setbacks, but also the joy of discovering new solutions which led us, step by step, and around many detours to the final goal.
It took us several years to gather all the articles, descriptions and combinations (in total, more than 300 since the early nineteenth century), to translate them from five languages and to classify them correctly, even with the great support of the Städtische Sukkulentensammlung Zürich and Anton Hofer's private library. The discoveries during this period were very thrilling: from the beginning, the history of the genus was full of errors and mistakes, which continued or were made even worse by most authors. To rectify all this, it was necessary for us to work back through the oldest descriptions and delve into the systematic botany and ICBN. We tried to work as conservatively as possible; however, some well-known species names had to be dropped or had to be replaced by valid names.
Several journeys to Mexico were necessary to check the existing species and their distribution. Thousands of photo documents of all known and newly discovered occurrences of Coryphantha spp. were the result, which meanwhile, ordered in a card index, became an excellent instrument for the diagnosis of plants and their variability. In the field, measurements of all species were taken and processed into uniform descriptions and, finally, into the key to the genus.
As a surprising bonus, it was possible, despite all the changes in Mexico over the past 150 years, to revisit very old locations and to document once again species lost or forgotten long ago. We even managed to discover and describe some new plants.
We reached our aim, the genus Coryphantha has been put into an order following the rules of today's botany and the system of Linné, insofar as a model developed by human beings can describe living nature.
This book cannot deal with the whole diversity of natural forms of Coryphantha spp., but we hope it will serve as a basis for the future work of as many enthusiasts of this genus as possible.
During our research, we found open doors and new friends, not only in Mexico, but everywhere, who greatly supported our efforts. To all of them we would like to express our thanks, in particular:
• Anton Hofer, Worben, Switzerland, who was an excellent teacher with his profound general knowledge and his great experience in the field and who allowed us the use of his unique private library
• Jonas Lüthy, whose brilliant knowledge as a botanist and Mammillaria specialist was of great benefit, and who made helpful corrections and assisted us in the field
• Urs Eggli, Zurich, who not only supplied us with abundant literature, but also with his great know-how of systematic botany
• Charles Glass, the genial explorer of Mexican cacti with his infallible instinct, who acknowledged us as Coryphantha specialists from the beginning and who gave us many new impulses with his unique knowledge about cacti; his field notes made it much easier to find many locations of Coryphantha species
• W.A. and Betty Fitz Maurice, San Luis Potosí, our "Mexican fortress", who took us to many important locations
• George B. Hinton, whose family herbarium was indispensable for our work and who helped us in our research of several species
• Manuel Sotomayor, San Luis Potosí and his "Grupo San Luis", who gave us many important data and helped us to collect Coryphantha glassii
• Andreas Bocker, whose great Coryphantha knowledge contributed to our work through an intense exchange of opinions by letter
• Grzegorz F. Matuszewski, our correspondent for Eastern Europe, who gave us much interesting information about locations
• Sidney Woolcock, whose publications on Coryphantha in the Journal of the Mam-millaria Society and personal correspondence often provided inspiration; he spent many hours correcting our English translation of this monograph. Unfortunately, we could not thank him personally, since he died so unexpectedly in July 2001
• David Hunt, Kew, who helped us whenever we asked him and edited our new conspectus of the genus Coryphantha
• Ted Anderson, who corrected the areole chapter shortly before his death
• Walter Imber, Günsberg, genial photographer, who improved our photo technique by giving us many hints and tips and, finally
• the wives of the authors, Roswitha Dicht and Agnieszka Lüthy, who were so patient and for understanding the need for our many trips to Mexico and
• Julian R. Dicht, son of R.F. Dicht, who successfully served as our "truffle pig" on three expeditions and proved his aptness in the field
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