Aztekium

Aztekium has fascinated botanists and horticulturists because of the unusual appearance of the plants and the remarkable habitat in which they grow, on vertical or near-vertical limestone or gypsum cliffs virtually devoid of any other vegetation. The taxonomy of the genus is a bit complicated. In 1928 Friedrich Boedeker described Echinocactus ritteri, based on a plant obtained from Friedrich Ritter in Mexico. The following year Boedeker described the genus Aztekium, the name based on the appearance of the plant compared to sculpture designs of the Aztec culture of Mexico. Boedeker did not state a type locality in his description, but a somewhat longer description appeared in Alwin Berger's Kakteen, where the plant was said to be from "Mexiko im mittleren Teile des Staates Nuevo Le[o]n ..." (Berger 1929,259). It is unclear where Berger obtained that information.

About 1990, George Hinton discovered a second species of Aztekium, causing a great stir in the cactus world. He asked two friends, Charles Glass and W. A. Fitz Maurice, to describe it, and they named A. hintonii in his honor. The two species of Aztekium (type, Echinocactus ritteri = A. ritteri) flower in spring and summer, the flowers open during the day. A comparative study of Aztekium and Strombocactus was published by Anderson and Skillman (1984), who determined that the two genera are distinct. A further investigation comparing the two species of Aztekium was published by Glass and Fitz Maurice (1992).

128 Aztekium

Aztekium Boedeker 1929

Subfamily Cactoideae, tribe Cacteae. Plants solitary to clustering. Stems semiglobose to somewhat columnar with slightly depressed woolly centers. Ribs distinct, often with grooves and riblets. Tubercles absent. Areoles small and numerous along the edge of each rib. Spines 1-3, short-lived, not distinguishable as centrals and radials, grayish white, often bending or twisting. Flowers borne at the stem tips, open during the day, white with pinkish midveins or magenta. Fruits hidden within the woolly centers, dry at maturity, naked, slightly elongate. Seeds shiny brownish black, tuberculate, to 1 mm long, about 0.5 mm in diameter, with the hilum obscured by a strophiole. Distribution: limestone or gypsum cliffs of the Sierra Madre Oriental in Nuevo León, Mexico.

Aztekium ritteri (Boedeker) Boedeker ex A. Berger 1929 aztec cactus

Echinocactus ritteri Boedeker 1928

Plants solitary at first, often clustering with age. Stems sub-globose to globose, olive green, 1-3 cm (0.4-1.2 in) high, 2-6 cm (0.8-2.4 in) in diameter. Ribs 6-11 with numerous transverse creases or riblets, rounded edges, 5-9 mm (0.2-0.4 in) high, 3-10 mm (to 0.4 in) wide. Spines 1-2, often ephemeral, often bending or twisting. Flowers white with pinkish midveins, 7-14 mm (0.3-0.6 in) in diameter. Distribution: a single valley complex in the Sierra Madre Oriental, Mexico. Aztekium ritteri is listed in Appendix I of cites.

Aztekium hintonii Glass & W. A. Fitz Maurice 1991

Columnar Cactus With Short Spines

Aztekium ritteri

Aztekium hintonii, also illustrated on page 17

Aztekium ritteri

Aztekium hintonii Glass & W. A. Fitz Maurice 1991

Plants solitary, globose to short columnar, dull gray-green, to 10 cm (3.9 in) in diameter. Ribs 10-15, very pronounced, axils sharp, 6-12 mm (0.2-0.5 in) deep, edges 3-4 mm wide but becoming wider with age. Spines 3, strongly curved, to 13 mm (0.5 in) long. Flowers magenta, 1-3 cm (0.4-1.2 in) in diameter. Distribution: a large area of gypsum outcrops in the Sierra Madre Oriental of central and southern Nuevo León, Mexico. Aztekium hintonii has not yet been proposed for listing in Appendix I of cites even though it has been severely affected by illegal collecting.

Aztekium hintonii, also illustrated on page 17

Blossfeldia 129

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