Escontria

Southern Mexico is the home of several interesting cereoid cacti. Nathaniel Britton and Joseph Rose (1919-1923,2:6566) reported that the plant now named Escontria was first collected by Dr. A. Weber, who was associated with the French army in Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century. They further commented that Weber sent material to George Engelmann, who did nothing with it. The plant material subsequently reached Europe and was described in 1897 as Cereus chiotilla by Frédéric Weber in Karl Schumann's Gesamtbeschreibung der Kakteen. In 1906 Rose described the genus Escontria for Weber's cactus, the name honoring Don Bias Escontria, a distinguished Mexican.

In 1938 Curt Backeberg described the genus Anisocereus based on Cereus lepidanthus. Franz Buxbaum (1961) enlarged Escontria to include A. lepidanthus, a decision Helia Bravo-Hollis (1978) and others followed. However, Arthur Gibson (1988d) concluded that Anisocereus and Escontria are not particularly closely related taxa; the International

Cactaceae Systematics Group has subsequently considered A. lepidanthus as Pachycereus lepidanthus. Gibson also concluded that Escontria is closely related to Myrtillocactus and Polaskia. The group, also recognizing this close relationship, first placed Escontria and Polaskia in Myrtillocactus (Hunt and Taylor 1986,1990). Later, however, the two were removed and are now considered separate genera (Hunt 1999a). Nonetheless, the similarities of these Mexican cacti are obvious; it is simply a matter of interpretation of the data as to whether separate genera are recognized. Escontria flowers during the day in summer.

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