Calymmanthium is a poorly known cactus that had often been placed in the tribe Browningieae, but DNA sequence studies by Robert Wallace (pers. comm.) show that it stands alone, without definite affinity to any other group of cereoid cacti. In fact, Calymmanthium seems to be basal to the entire subfamily Cactoideae; it is therefore placed in its own tribe, the Calymmantheae.
Friedrich Ritter discovered this unusual, arboreal cactus while exploring in northern Peru in 1954. He described Calymmanthium (type, C. substerile) for the single species in 1962; few plants are found in collections or botanic gardens. The most unusual feature of Calymmanthium is that the flower buds first look like small vegetative shoots. From these shoots arise the flowers, which are concealed during much of their development. The base of the flower thus appears to be hooded or covered. The name Calymmanthium is the Greek equivalent of the German Kappenblute, hooded flower. The plants bloom at night in summer.
Calymmanthium F. Ritter 1962
Subfamily Cactoideae, tribe Calymmantheae.
Calymmanthium substerile f. Ritter 1962 Calymmanthium fertile F. Ritter 1981
Plants shrubby or arboreal, forming many, more or less upright branches, to 8 m (26 ft) high. Stems segmented, pale green, to 1 m (3.3 ft) long, 4-12 cm (1.6-4.7 in) in diameter. Ribs 3-4, thin and winglike, conspicuously notched or tu-berculate. Areoles very evident, 3-6 mm (to 0.2 in) in diameter. Spines straight, stiff, whitish, sharp. Central spines 1-6, strong, 1-5 cm (0.4-2 in) long. Radial spines 3-8, more or
Calymmanthium substerile, photograph by Jean-Marie Solichon less erect, 0.5-1 cm (0.2-0.4 in) long. Flowers narrowly tubular to bell shaped, white with reddish brown outer perianth parts, 9.5-11 cm (3.7-4.3 in) long, 3-5 cm (1.2-2 in) in diameter; the receptacle tube partially covering the perianth while in bud; pericarpels and receptacle tubes with small scales and woolly areoles; perianth parts spreading above the tubes. Fruits fleshy, indehiscent, four- or five-angled, light green, with few or no areoles. Distribution: Andes in Jaén province, Cajamarca, Peru, the type locality stated as near Huancabamba.
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