One of the least understood genera of cacti in western South America is Corryocactus, shrubby to treelike, columnar cacti that have well-armed stems. Their flowers are bell shaped to broadly funnelform, open during the day, and have short floral tubes bearing many small scales. Fruits are large, though spiny, and juicy and good tasting. In fact, local inhabitants collect them for food. I have observed Corryocactus in both Chile and Peru.
In 1920 Nathaniel Britton and Joseph Rose described two genera of cacti, Corryocactus (type, Cereus brevistylus ~ Corryocactus brevistylus) with three species, the name honoring T. A. Corry of the Peruvian railway system, who helped them in their fieldwork, and Erdisia (type, Cereus squarrosus = Corryocactus squarrosus) with four species. Subsequently, many additional species were named in each genus, often with very limited descriptions. Work has since shown that the two genera should be combined, but unfortunately, it is unclear how many good species there are. Probably only about half should be recognized of the 40 that have been described, but field and laboratory studies are necessary to determine what the taxonomic situation is. The International Cactaceae Systematics Group has not dealt with these cacti, though David Hunt (1999b) has published a brief summary and key to the genus. The treatment here follows Hunt's, recognizing 12 species.
Corryocactus Britton & Rose 1920 Erdisia Britton & Rose 1920
Subfamily Cactoideae, tribe Pachycereeae. Plants shrubby to treelike, freely branching basally and often forming large clumps. Stems cylindrical, stout to slender, erect, ascending, or prostrate, sometimes creeping or even rhizomatous, 1-5 m (3.3-16 ft) high. Ribs 4-10, prominent. Spines stout, sharp, mostly erect. Flowers open duringthe day, bell shaped to broadly funnelform, opening widely, vivid yellow, orange, or purple; floral tubes short; pericarpels and floral tubes densely covered with small scales, and areoles with brown or black wool and spines; perianth parts short; stamens inserted in the broad throats. Fruits globose, juicy, edible, with tufts of needle-like spines that fall away easily; without floral remains. Seeds small, obliquely ovoid, smooth to tuberculate, sometimes wrinkled, black or brownish, sometimes covered with a mucilage sheath. Distribution: Peru, western Bolivia, and northern Chile, from sea level to more than 4500 m (15,000 ft).
Corryocactus apiciflorus (Vaupel) Hutchison 1963 Cereus apiciflorus Vaupel 1913, Erdisia apiciflora (Vaupel) Werdermann 1940
Erdisia maxima Backeberg 1937, Corryocactus maximus (Backeberg)
Hutchison 1963 Corryocactus solitaris F. Ritter 1981
Plants shrubby with sprawling or ascending branches. Stems to 50 cm (20 in) long and 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter, covered with dense spines. Ribs 8, low. Central spine one, to 2 cm (0.8 in) long. Radial spines about 10, spreading, to 1 cm (0.4 in) long. Flowers borne in clusters apically or sometimes laterally, red, to 4 cm (1.6 in) long. Ancash and Ayacucho, Peru.
Corryocactus aureus (Meyen) Hutchison ex Buxbaum 1963
Cactus aureus Meyen 1834
Erdisia meyenii Britton & Rose 1920
Corryocactus acervatus F. Ritter 1981
Corryocactus cuajonesensis F. Ritter 1981
Plants forming large colonies with subterranean stems. Stems erect, short, not jointed, cylindrical to club shaped, to 20 cm (7.9 in) long, 3-5 cm (1.2-2 in) in diameter. Ribs 5-8, with somewhat notched margins, to 1 cm (0.4 in) high. Spines awl shaped, brown to blackish. Central spines 1-2, to 6 cm (2.4 in) long. Radial spines 9-11, unequal. Flowers orange-yellow to orange-red, to 4 cm (1.6 in) long. Fruits
Corryocactus brachypetalus greenish to reddish, to 2 cm (0.8 in) in diameter. Distribution: southern Peru to northern Chile.
Corryocactus brachypetalus (Vaupel) Britton 8c Rose 1920 Cereus brachypetalus Vaupel 1913
Plants freely branching basally to form large clumps with many erect stems, to4 m (13 ft) high. Stems dull green, 6-10 cm (2.4-3.9 in) in diameter. Ribs 7-8, prominent. Spines as many as 20, black at first, later lighter, sometimes twisted, most less than 1 cm (0.4 in) long, but one or more 10-16 cm (3.9-6.3 in) long. Flowers broadly funnelform, deep orange, 4-6 cm (1.6-2.4 in) in diameter. Fruits globose, greenish yellow, spiny at first, later deciduous, 6-7 cm (2.4-2.8 in) in diameter. Distribution: Arequipa, Peru.
Corryocactus brevistylus (K. Schumann) Britton & Rose 1920
guacalla, quisco de flores amarillas, quiso de fl0res amarillas
Cereus brevistylus K. Schumann 1913 Corryocactus krausii Backeberg 1956 Corryocactus ayacuchoensis Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Corryocactus brevispinus Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Corryocactus heteracanthus Backeberg 1957 Corryocactus pachycladus Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Corryocactus puquiensis Rauh & Backeberg 1957, C. brevistylus subsp.puquiensis (Rauh & Backeberg) Ostolaza 1998
Plants freely branching basally, forming large clumps 2-5 m (6.6-16 ft) high. Stems dark green to light green to yellowish, 12-15 cm (4.7-5.9 in) in diameter. Ribs 6-8, sometimes very
Corryocactus brevistylus subsp. puquiensi
Corryocactus brevistylus subsp. puquiensi prominent. Spines about 15, brownish, later lighter, very unequal, most 1-3 cm (0.4-1.2 in) long, a few 20-24 cm (7.99.4 in) long. Flowers broadly funnelform, golden yellow, fragrant, to 9 cm (3.5 in) long, 6-10 cm (2.4-3.9 in) in diameter. Fruits globose, greenish, 7-10 cm (2.8-3.9 in) in diameter, covered with spines that soon fall away. Distribution: Arequipa in southern Peru south into northern Chile at elevations above 2000 m (6600 ft).
Two subspecies of Corryocactus brevistylus are recognized. Subspecies brevistylus is usually 2-3 m (6.6-9.8 ft) high, has 5-6 very prominent ribs, and flowers to 10 cm (3.9 in) in diameter; it occurs mainly in the southern portion of the range of the species. Subspecies puquiensis has stems to 5 m (16 ft) high, usually 8 ribs, and flowers to 6 cm (2.4 in) in diameter; it occurs in the more northern part of the range, especially in Arequipa, Peru.
Corryocactus chachapoyensis Ochoa & Backeberg ex D. R. Hunt 1999
Plants lax and clambering shrubs. Stems to 80 cm (31 in) long and 2 cm (0.8 in) in diameter. Ribs 8-13. Spines several, yellow, one stouter and longer. Flowers yellow, to 2-4.5 cm (0.8-1.8 in) long and in diameter. Distribution: Amazonas, Peru.
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