Distinctive Features of Cacti

The sight was incredible! As far as one could see there were mounds of cacti, many more than 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter. I walked into the population of Copiapoa malletiana and counted more than 100 heads in many of the mounds. This was surely one of the most dense and spectacular aggregations of cacti anywhere, and it was an unforgettable experience. I thought back to just a few days earlier when my companions and I were

Chilian Desert Cactus

in another part of the coastal fog desert of northern Chile, where we had crawled over the coarse sand, searching for another, very different but related cactus, C. laui. A solitary individual would be seen, or rather the pattern of one, because the tiny cactus is completely buried under the translucent grains of sand. We carefully dug out a specimen and discovered that the tiny heads, only a few millimeters in diameter, are supported by

Copiapoa malletiana population near Carrizal Bajo, Atacama, coastal Chile long necks arising from a large, tuberous root system. How different these small geophytes were from the mounds of cacti or the treelike Eulychnia growing nearby.

Copiapoa Laui Cactus

Pachycereus pringlei, cardón, Baja California Peninsula, Mexico

I thought back to other memorable experiences I have had in another part of the Western Hemisphere, the Galápagos Islands. The islands are famous for giant tortoises, penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, and other interesting animals but the cacti are equally remarkable for their size and mass. I recalled walking through a forest of giant prickly pear cacti, Opuntia echios var. barringtonensis. At the time I thought that I would never see any cacti as extraordinary as those!

To describe all impressive cacti I have seen would take a book to do so, this book, for I could not ignore the cactus forests of the valley of Tehua-cán, the cliffs covered with Aztekium hintonii and Geohintonia mexicana, the huge mounds of pey-

Pachycereus Pringlei

Pachycereus pringlei, cardón, Baja California Peninsula, Mexico ote, Lophophora williamsii, and the giant candelabra-like cardon, Pachycereus pringlei, of Baja California. Indeed, the cactus family, the Cactaceae, is one of the most remarkable of all plant families.

Peyote San Luis Potosi

Lophophora williamsii, peyote, near El Huizache junction, San Luis Potosi, Mexico; also illustrated on page 46

Aztekium hintonii and Geohintonia mexicana in Nuevo León, Mexico ote, Lophophora williamsii, and the giant candelabra-like cardon, Pachycereus pringlei, of Baja California. Indeed, the cactus family, the Cactaceae, is one of the most remarkable of all plant families.

Lophophora williamsii, peyote, near El Huizache junction, San Luis Potosi, Mexico; also illustrated on page 46

Aztekium hintonii and Geohintonia mexicana in Nuevo León, Mexico

Peyote Cultivation
Neobuxbaumia tetetzo forest in the valley of Tehuacán, Hidalgo, Mexico
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Responses

  • elizabeth stuart
    What is distinctive feature of cactus?
    3 years ago

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