Several groups of globose cacti occur in the Peruvian Andes, and Matucana is one of the most spectacular, often bearing red, hummingbird-pollinated flowers. I have had the good fortune of observing them in their habitat but have discovered that, like many other cacti, the species are extremely variable and have been confusing taxonomically. Fortunately, Matucana has been the subject of a thorough study by Rob Bregman (1996) of the University of Amsterdam. His research has not solved all the problems, especially the question of whether some species have hybridized. Nonetheless, Bregman's work greatly clarifies the status of the genus.
Nathaniel Britton and Joseph Rose described Matucana (type, M. haynei) in 1922 for a single species. The name of the genus is that of the Peruvian town near the type locality of M. haynei. Bregman (1996) recognized 19 species, 17 of which are accepted by the International Cactaceae Systemat-ics Group (Hunt 1999a) and included here.
Matucana is characterized as globose to short cylindrical, bearing bilaterally symmetrical flowers that are open during the day in summer. The flowers may be of various colors, though most are red. The distinctive fruits are usually globose, about 1 cm (0.4 in) in diameter, and dehisce by three vertical slits. Matucana is closely related to Oreocereus, Oroya, and possibly Denmoza, each of the genera with different flowers, however. Myron Kimnach (1960) has suggested that Matucana belongs in Borzicactus, which the International Cactaceae Systematics Group places in Cleistocactus. The affinity of Matucana to other South American cacti remains somewhat unclear.
Matucana Britton & Rose 1922 Submatucana Backeberg 1959 Eomatucana F. Ritter 1965
Subfamily Cactoideae, tribe Trichocereeae. Plants low growing, solitary or branching basally, sometimesformingcushions. Stemsglo-bose to cylindrical, to 50 cm (20 in) high. Ribs few to many, broad, low, tuberculate. Areoles producing both hairs and spines. Spines extremely variable, fine, sometimes numerous orfewto absent. Flowers borne subapically, funnelform to narrowly tubular funnelform, open during the day, bright red to orange to pink or yellow, more or less bilaterally symmetrical to sometimes radially symmetrical; areoles of pericarpels and floral tubes naked or hairy; stamens sometimes coalesced basally, sometimes with staminodial hairs. Fruits globose to oblong, semifleshy, hollow, splitting longitudinally; perianth parts persistent. Seeds variable, oval to hatshaped. Distribution: Andes of Peru.
Matucana aurantiaca (Vaupel) F. Buxbaum 1973 Echinocactus aurarttiacus Vaupel 1913, Arequipa aurantiaca (Vaupel) Werdermann 1939, Borzicactus aurantiacus (Vaupel) Kimnach & Hutchison 1957, Submatucana aurantiaca (Vaupel) Backeberg 1959 Borzicactus calvescens Kimnach & Hutchison 1957, Submatucana calvescens (Kimnach & Hutchison) Backeberg 1959, Matucana calvescens (Kimnach & Hutchison) Buxbaum 1973 Matucana currundayensis F. Ritter 1958, Submatucana currundayen-sis (F. Ritter) Backeberg 1962, M. aurantiaca subsp.currundayensis (F. Ritter) Mottram 1997
Matucana hastifera F. Ritter 1981 Matucana pallarensis F. Ritter 1981
Plants usually solitary, occasionally branching basally. Stems globose to broadly cylindrical, green to dark green, to 35 cm (14 in) long and 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter. Ribs 13-17, broad, with hexagonal tubercles. Spination variable, straight, yellowish brown to dark brown, becoming gray with age. Central spines about 9, 20-70 mm (0.8-2.8 in) long. Radial spines 12-20, 5-40 mm (0.2-1.6 in) long. Flowers orangered to red, with violet margins, slightly oblique to straight, 7-9 cm (2.8-3.5 in) long, 5-7 cm (2-2.8 in) in diameter. Fruits globose, green, to 2 cm (0.8 in) in diameter. Distribution: Huancabamba south to Santiago de Chuco and El Pallar at elevations of 2000-3700 m (6600-12,000 ft).
Two subspecies of Matucana aurantiaca are recognized. Subspecies aurantiaca occurs mainly in Cajamarca and La Libertad, Peru; it has stems higher than wide and 16-20 radial spines 7-20 mm (0.3-0.8 in) long. Subspecies currundayen-sis occurs near Samne, La Libertad; it has stems wider than high and 12-15 radial spines 15-40 mm (0.6-1.6 in) long.
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