Mila Caespitosa

Mila, a relatively small cactus, occurs widely in Peru and displays considerable variation throughout its range. Consequently, 13 species have been described for Mila (type, M. caespitosa), the name of the genus coined by Nathaniel Britton and Joseph Rose in 1922 as an anagram of Lima. I have seen the plant in many areas of both coastal and montane central Peru, and indeed, it does show variation from one region to another. The range of variation is continuous, however, making it virtually impossible to state clearly that plants from a population belong to one species or another. Moreover, molecular studies by Robert Wallace (pers. comm.) and students show that there is little or no DNA sequence variation throughout the range of the cactus.

The International Cactaceae Systematics Group (Hunt and Taylor 1986,1990) concluded that Mila should be recognized as a genus of one species. The second edition of the cites Cactaceae Checklist (Hunt 1999a) surprisingly included four species, however, despite the evidence presented by Wallace and colleagues. I feel that it is best to consider Mila as consisting of a single, extremely variable species. The plants flower during the day in summer.

Mila Britton & Rose 1922

Subfamily Cactoideae,tri be Trichocereeae.

Mila caespitosa Britton & Rose 1922

Mila kubeana Werdermann & Backeberg 1931

Mila nealeana Backeberg 1934, M. caespitosa subsp. nealeana

(Backeberg) Donald 1978 Mila alboareolata Akers 1953 Mila albisaetacens Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Mila breviseta Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Mila cereoides Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Mila densiseta Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Mila fortalezensis Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Mila lurinensis Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Mila pugionifera Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Mila sublanata Rauh & Backeberg 1957 Mila colorea F. Ritter 1981

Mila caespitosa

Plants to 30 cm (12 in) high, usually clustered with some stems erect and others sprawling. Roots tuberous. Stems short cylindrical, soft, green to gray-green, 7-30 cm (2.8-12 in) long, 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in) in diameter. Ribs 10-15, shallow, with closely set areoles. Spines extremely variable, white with yellowish to brownish tips. Central spines 3-7, 20-30 mm (0.8-1.2 in) long. Radial spines 8-40,5-20 mm (0.2-0.8 in) long. Flowers arising near the stem tips, short tubed, funnel-form, cream to yellow, 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in) long, 1.5-2 cm (0.6-0.8 in) in diameter; pericarpels and floral tubes with small scales and wool. Fruits globose, berrylike, yellow to reddish brown, fleshy, 10-15 mm (0.4-0.6 in) in diameter, nearly naked; floral remains persistent. Seeds small, glossy black, warty. Distribution: foothills and at higher elevations of the Andes in central Peru.

Continue reading here: Miqueliopuntia

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