Among the most impressive cacti in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile is Copiapoa, varying in size from some of the smallest cacti to massive clumps consisting of hundreds of stems. Rudoph Philippi, a German botanist who traveled widely in Chile in the mid-nineteenth century, described three new cacti, placing them in Echinocactus. The American botanist Joseph Rose traveled to Chile in 1914, where he observed and collected some of the interesting globose cacti in the Atacama Desert. By that time several species of this distinct group had been described, all placed in Echinocactus. Britton and Rose recognized that the group was, indeed, distinct, and described the genus Copiapoa (type, E. marginatus = C. marginata) in 1922, basing the name on the Chilean city of Copiapo in Atacama, where many of the species occur. They included only six species, a group of day-flowering, glo bose or short cylindrical, spiny cacti, that in some instances form massive clumps.
In following years several additional species were described by Friedrich Ritter and others. Nigel Taylor (1981b) initiated a reexamination of Copiapoa, commenting extensively on nomenclature. A lengthy paper by Massimo Mere-galli and Carlo Doni (1991) summarized the knowledge of Copiapoa. The publication by Rudolf Schulz and Attila Kap-itany (1996) beautifully illustrates the genus but does not attempt a taxonomic revision. A summary of the genus was also included in Adriana Hoffmann's 1989 study of the Chilean cacti. Two additional studies of the genus attempt taxonomic updating and revision of Copiapoa. The first, by Graham Charles (1998), contains numerous excellent illustrations and a good discussion based on much fieldwork. The second, by Fred Kattermann (pers. comm.), likewise is based on numerous field trips and extensive research. The two treatments differ somewhat, as well as from that in the cites Cactaceae Checklist (Hunt 1999a); 26 species are included here.
Copiapoa Britton & Rose 1922 Pilocopiapoa F. Ritter 1957
Subfamily Cactoideae, tribe Notocacteae. Plants solitary orform-ing clusters. Stems globose to elongate cylindrical with the tips usually covered with dense wool. Roots fibrous or taproots. Ribs distinct. Spines usually present, variable. Flowers borne atthe stem tips, bell shaped to funnelform, yellow, sometimes with reddish tint; floral tubes short, broad; pericarpels short, top shaped, naked. Fruits small, smooth; persistent green scales apically. Seeds large, glossy black, with large hilum. Distribution: Atacama Desert of northern Chile.
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