In 1835 Ludwig Pfeiffer described Lepismium (type, I. commune = L. cruciforme), the name derived from the Greek lepis, scale, referring to the small scales that subtend the areoles. Lepismium is clearly a member of the tribe Rhipsalid-eae, but there is disagreement regarding the boundaries of the genus. Myron Kimnach (1983b, 1984) has written extensively on these cacti, arguing that two separate genera should be recognized in addition to Lepismium: Acanthorhipsalis and Lymanbensonia. However, more recent work by Wilhelm Barthlott and Nigel Taylor (1995) defines Lepismium as containing those species formerly in Acanthorhipsalis, Lymanbensonia, and Pfeiffera, an interpretation accepted by the International Cactaceae Systematics Group, who recognize 15 species.
Lepismium includes both epiphytes and lithophytes, branching mesotonically, that is, near the middle of the stem. Stem segments are indeterminate in growth, variable in cross section, and lack the composite areoles of Hatiora. Many have spines. Flowers are borne laterally, open during the day in late spring, and have angular pericarpels with areoles that usually bear scales and bristles. Fruits are highly colored.
Lepismium Pfeiffer 1835 Pfeiffera Salm-Dyck 1845 Acanthorhipsalis Britton & Rose 1923 Lymanbensonia Kimnach 1984
Subfamily Cactoideae, tribe Rhipsalideae. Plants epiphytic or lithophytic shrubs, either creeping or pendulous, with mesotonic branching. Stems indeterminate in growth, usually segmented, cylindrical, ribbed, winged, angled, orflat; youngstems arisingsingly from the tips orsides of older segments. Leaves rudimentary scales, usually visible. Tubercles absent. Areoles distinct on rib margins, often in notches. Spines present or absent. Flowers borne laterally, small, rotate, bell shaped to somewhat tubular; pericarpels often tuberculate and spiny or angled, sometimes lacking spines; floral tubes very short or absent. Fruits berrylike, brightly colored or translucent, distinctly veined, sometimes spiny. Seeds brown or black, oblongor ovate, to 1 mm long. Distribution: mainly eastern Bolivia but extending into Argentina and Brazil.
Barthlott and Taylor (1995) recognized six subgenera of Lepismium: Acanthorhipsalis, Houlletia, Lymanbensonia, Lepismium, Pfeiffera, and Ophiorhipsalis.
Lepismium aculeatum (F. A. C. Weber) Barthlott 1987 Rhipsalis aculeata F. A. C. Weber 1892
Plants shrubby, epiphytic, freely branching. Stems round, sometimes slightly angled, 3-4 mm in diameter. Areoles close set, woolly. Spines 8-10, flattened against the stem surface, stiff, yellowish. Flowers rotate, white to yellowish; pericarpels naked. Fruits globose, dark purple to nearly black, 7-8 mm (0.3 in) in diameter. Distribution: northwestern Argentina. Lepismium aculeatum is questionable as a species and may be simply a population of L. lumbricoides.
Lepismium bolivianum (Britton) Barthlott 1991 Hariota boliviana Britton 1893, Rhipsalis boliviana (Britton) Lauterbach 1910
Plants pendulous with main stems four-angled, winged bas-ally, and bearing areoles with short yellowish bristles. Stem segments flattened and thin, 1.5-30 cm (0.6-12 in) long, 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in) wide, strongly notched marginally. Areoles woolly. Spines absent or weak. Flowers usually solitary, whitish, creamy, or light pink, to 15mm (0.6 in) longand 10mm (0.4 in) in diameter. Fruits globose, brownish yellow, to 10 mm (0.4 in) in diameter. Distribution: vicinity of La Paz, Bolivia, at an elevation of about 1800 m (5900 ft).
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