Forming spectacular masses of golden stems, Bergerocactus is one of the most impressive cacti in the coastal chaparral region of southern California and northern Baja California. Specimens were first collected in California by John Leconte and Charles Parry. The material was sent to George Engelmann in St. Louis, who described it as Cereus emoryi. Engelmann commented on the prickly flowers, which suggested that it might be related to Echinocereus, but then went on to say that the seed and the enclosed embryo placed it in Cereus. Nathaniel Britton and Joseph Rose (1909), believing it different enough from other members of Cereus to be a separate genus, described Bergerocactus (type, C. emoryi = B. emoryi), the name honoring the German cactus specialist Alwin Berger.

Reid Moran (1965), in an important study of Bergerocactus, repeated that the relationship of the cactus was unclear and that it should be retained as a genus of one species. Subsequently, Robert Wallace (pers. comm.) has studied DNA sequences of many cereoids, including Bergerocactus which appears to be most closely related to Pachycereus and Penio-cereus though clearly distinct from either.

Bergerocactus Britton & Rose 1909

Subfamily Cactoideae, tribe Pachycereeae.

Bergerocactus emoryi (Engelmann) Britton & Rose 1909

golden cereus, golden spine cereus, prohibition cactus, sprawling cactus, velvet cactus

Cereus emoryi Engelmann 1852

Echinocereus emoryi (Engelmann) Rumpler 1885

Plants shrubby, much branched near ground level, often creating large masses of stems to several meters in diameter. Stems more or less erect, cylindrical, to 60 cm (24 in) long, 3-6 cm (1.2-2.4 in) in diameter. Ribs 20-25, present but inconspicuous. Spines 20-30, dense, often obscuring the stems, yellow but darkening with age, the main one bent backward, others spreading, more or less straight, to 5 cm (2 in) long. Flowers open during the day, yellow, 5-6 cm (2-2.4 in) in diameter; pericarpels and floral tubes felted and spiny. Fruits globose, 2.5-6 cm (1-2.4 in) in diameter, dry at maturity, densely spiny. Seeds obovoid and flattened. Distribution: mostly sandy soils of the coastal chaparral of southern California and some of the Channel Islands, and northwestern Baja California, Mexico, from sea level to 60 m (200 ft). Though not yet considered threatened or endangered, the habitat of Bergerocactus emoryi has suffered considerably from urban development.

Bergerocactus emoryi

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