The diminutive cacti of the genus Turbinicarpus are some of the most popular among hobbyists. They take little space, are hardy, and flower readily. Unfortunately, the desirability of these plants has resulted in depredation of populations in Mexico by illegal collecting. Most species have limited ranges, often restricted to one or a few hills. Their popularity has also led to many names being published, many of which are for plants that are mere variants of already described species.
Turbinicarpus (type, Echinocactus schmiedickeanus = T. schmiedickeanus) was described by Franz Buxbaum and Curt Backeberg in 1937, the name from the Latin turbinatus, top shaped, and Greek carpos, fruit or body, referring to the top-shaped form of the plants. Important summary papers of Turbinicarpus have been published by Charles Glass and Robert Foster (1977) and Urs Eggli (1984a). I investigated Turbinicarpus in my study of Neolloydia, Thelocactus, and related genera and concluded that the species of Turbinicarpus are neotenic forms, that is, having evolved the ability to flower and fruit in the juvenile stage, of Neolloydia (Anderson 1986). This thesis, however, has not generally been accepted in the cactus community, and the International Cactaceae Systematics Group has chosen to retain Turbinicarpus as a separate genus of 24 species and one naturally occurring hybrid. Turbinicarpus flowers during the day, usually in late spring and summer.
Heavy collection from wild populations of Turbinicarpus has led to the listing of the entire genus in Appendix I of cites. This has probably reduced illegal collecting to some extent. I have studied Turbinicarpus in the field and continue to be impressed by the limited distribution of most species. It has been gratifying, however, to see that some populations that had been collected virtually to extinction recovering through germination from seed reservoirs. Yet continued illegal collecting threatens several populations.
Turbinicarpus Buxbaum & Backeberg 1937 Gymnocactus Backeberg 1938 Rapicactus Buxbaum & Oehme 1942 Normanbokea Kladiwa & Buxbaum 1969 Bravocactus Doweld 1998 Kadenicarpus Doweld 1998
Subfamily Cactoldeae, tribe Cacteae. Plants small, mostly globose, usually solitary, sometimes clustering. Ribs absent or divided into distinct tubercles. Tubercles mostly low, rounded, but some conical. Areoles borne at tubercle tips, often woolly, white. Spines few, usually flexible, not sharply pointed. Flowers arising from the stem tips, open duringthe day, white to rose to magenta; pericarpels naked or with a few scales on the upper portion. Fruits berrylike, dehiscent. Seeds 1-1.5 mm long, warty, with large hilum, black. Distribution: limestone orgypsum rocks throughout northern Mexico, from Coahu-ila south into Guanajuato.
Turbinicarpus alonsoi Glass & S. Arias 1996 Pediocactus alonsoi (Glass & S. Arias) Halda 1998
Plants solitary, globose, 6-9 cm (2.4-3.5 in) in diameter. Tubercles flattened, triangular, to 15 mm (0.6 in) long, 13 mm (0.5 in) wide. Spines 3-5, flattened, cardboardlike, gray with darker tips, to 20 mm (0.8 in) long. Flowers red, 2.5-3.8 cm (1-1.5 in) long, 2-3 cm (0.8-1.2 in) in diameter. Fruits reddish to dark violet, 10 mm (0.4 in) long, to 5 mm in diameter. Distribution: Guanajuato, Mexico. All species of Turbinicarpus are listed in Appendix I of cites.
Turbinicarpus beguinii (N. P. Taylor) Mosco & Zanovello 1997
Echinocactus beguinii F. A. C. Weber ex K. Schumann 1898, illegitimate name; Neolloydia beguinii (F. A. C. Weber ex K. Schumann) Britton & Rose 1923, illegitimate name; Gymnocactus beguinii (F. A. C. Weber ex K. Schumann) Backeberg 1961, illegitimate name Neolloydia glassii Doweld 2000
Plants solitary, globose to slightly cylindrical globose, grayish to bluish green, 7-10 cm (2.8-3.9 in) high, 3-4.5 cm (1.2-1.8 in) in diameter. Tubercles conical, 2-3 mm high. Central spines 2-3, slender, erect, straight, white to yellowish brown,
Turbinicarpus beguinii with dark tips, 12-15 mm (0.5-0.6 in) long. Radial spines 12-16, white with dark tips, radiating, straight, 4-6 mm (0.2 in) long. Flowers magenta with lighter margins, 1.2—1.8 cm (0.5-0.7 in) in diameter. Fruits greenish magenta, 16-18 mm (0.6-0.7 in) long. Distribution: Coahuila, Nuevo León, and San Luis Potosí, Mexico. All species of Turbinicarpus are listed in Appendix I of cites.
Turbinicarpus bonatzii G. Frank 1992 Pediocactus bonatzii (G. Frank) Halda 1998, Turbinicarpus schmiedickeanus subsp. bonatzii (G. Frank) Panarotto 1998
Plants solitary, depressed globose to globose, dark green, 1.5-2 cm (0.6-0.8 in) in diameter. Tubercles conical to rhomboid. Central spine one, brown, 12-15 mm (0.5-0.6 in) long. Radial spines 1-2, white with dark tips, 3-5 mm long. Flowers rose colored with lighter margins, to 1 cm (0.4 in) long, 1.2-1.5 cm (0.5-0.6 in) in diameter. Fruits not known. Distribution: near Cerritos, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. All species of Turbinicarpus are listed in Appendix I of cites. Turbinicarpus bonatzii is poorly known and may be only a population of T. schmiedickeanus.
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