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Results tagged “cactaceae”

Jul 12, 2014: Pereskiopsis aquosa

Another entry from Taisha, who writes:

Today, we have several photographs of Pereskiopsis aquosa from retired Garden staff member, David Tarrant. Thanks for sharing, David! David mentioned in his email to us that this is currently flowering in his garden after the commencement of summer rains in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He recounted that he had found a plant blooming in a garden trash pile about four years ago, and then took a cutting. The cutting formed a small rangy three-stemmed shrub about a metre in height. His plant now produces these buttercup yellow blooms, but David notes that like so many other cacti, the flowers only last a day.

In the email, David points out that it difficult to find anything written about this cactus species. He was right! This species is endemic to Mexico. It is distributed in the states of Jalisco, Colima, and Nayarit where it grows in tropical deciduous forests between elevations of 300-1800 metres. I also managed to dig up a bit about the evolution of the subfamily this species belongs to, the Opuntioideae.

The leafy habit of Pereskiopsis aquosa is curious, and the evolutionary history of leaf characters in the subfamily Opuntioideae is of interest (as well as below-ground storage morphology). This species-rich subfamily (the second most speciose subfamily in the Cactaceae with ~350 members) has a wide diversity of leaf and ground storage organ characters. Most genera in the subfamily possess early deciduous terete leaves that can be up to 2cm long, but are often much shorter. However, the genera Austrocylindropuntia, Quiabentia, and Pereskiopsis have persistent leaves. In addition to being described as distinctively persistent, the leaves of Pereskiopsis are flat, fleshy, ovate to spathulate, and up to 8cm long and 5cm wide.

The possession of persistent leaves within Opuntioideae, a family that is marked by stem-succulence, has given rise to some theorizing that the ancestral opuntioid was similar to either Austrocylindropuntia, Quiabentia, or Pereskiopsis. Others, however, have suggested that because of the reduced vasculature (transport tissue) in the persistent leaves within these genera relative to the relictual cactus leaves of earlier diverged Pereskia, that these persistent leaves are instead a derived character that actually represent an evolutionary reversal from within an ephemeral-leaved ancestral lineage. Based on the results of a character state reconstruction of ancestral leaf habit for the Opuntioideae, performed by researcher M. P. Griffith, the latter hypothesis is supported. His results showed that there were at least two derived independent adaptations of enlarged, persistent leaves in the Opuntioideae. Griffith explains that although most cacti possess a suite of morphological and anatomical adaptations for survival in arid regimes (such as stem-succulence), not all cacti may benefit. In areas where aridity is not the absolute limiting factor in growth (such as the habitats of Pereskiopsis, Quiabentia, and Austrocylindropuntia) increased surface area and photosynthetic capacity is actually adaptive.

Instead of Pereskiopsis, Quiabentia or Austrocylindropuntia representing the early morphology of Opuntioideae, Griffiths suggests that the early morphology of this subfamily may be best represented by the genus Maihueniopsis sensu lato (in the broad sense). The untenably monophyletic Maihenueniopsis is the deepest lineage within the Opuntioideae, and is characterized by being early deciduous, globular-stemmed, diminutive, and often geophytic. This genus, along with Puna, possess many characters that are plesiomorphic (ancestral) for the subfamily Opuntioideae. Some other hypotheses have suggested that the earliest Opuntioideae were true geophytes, though this remains unresolved. (see: Griffiths, M. P. (2009). Evolution of leaf and habit characters in Opuntioideae (Cactaceae): reconstruction of ancestral form. Bradleya. 27:49-58).

Jun 17, 2014: Echinocactus grusonii

Echinocactus grusonii

An entry written by Taisha, who scribes:

Today, we have an image of a pleasant arrangement of cacti. In particular, I'll be writing about the Echinocactus grusonii, or golden barrel cacti, in the foreground. This photo was taken by Mike Bush (aka aviac@FlickrM), and shared via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated, Mike!

According to The Cactus Family by Edward F. Anderson, Echinocactus grusonii is slow-growing, eventually reaching a height of up to 130cm and a diameter of 80 cm in the oldest individuals (>100 years old). Growth can be relatively fast in the first few decades of life, though, if conditions are ideal. The ribbed column bears yellow spines (modified leaves) that darken with age. Yellow flowers sit atop the cactus in the summer months, with somewhat oblong and greenish fruits appearing later in the year.

Echinocactus grusonii is native to Mexico, with two known populations. The smaller of the two populations (~1000 individuals) is located in a small area of Querétaro near Mesa de Léon on medium to steep slopes of volcanic rock. A recently-discovered population was found in Zacatecas, where up to 10000 mature individuals grow at elevations between 1400 and 1900 meters.

Golden barrel cactus (or mother-in-law's cushion) is currently listed as globally endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Major threats include illegal collecting for horticultural trade and population destruction for dam construction. This cactus is a desirable addition to any garden and is included in many public and private collections. Although this species is widely propagated and readily available in horticulture worldwide, it does not stop ongoing poaching from wild populations (similar to the Dicksonia from a few days ago, mature specimens are extremely valuable). As a conservation action, the IUCN insists that laws governing imports to other countries must be enforced. They also advise a need for further research in this species' natural history and ecology, as well as in its collection and harvest.

Botanical / art resource link (by Daniel): Sowing a Garden, One Knit Flower At a Time, an article on Smithsonian.com about what happens when a knitter decides to combine knitting with an appreciation for plants.

Oct 29, 2013: Pereskia aculeata

Pereskia aculeata

Botany Photo of the Day work-learn student Taisha is again the author. She writes:

Today's photo is of Pereskia aculeata (Cactaceae) or the Barbados gooseberry. This photograph was taken by a regular contributor to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr pool, 3Point141@Flickr. Thanks for sharing, 3Point141!

Pereskia aculeata (PDF with additional photographs) is one of 17 recognized species in its genus, which is considered one of the best living representations of the ancestral cactus. Species in the genus have leafy habits, non-succulent stems with stomata, and delayed bark formation. Pereskia aculeata is an erect woody shrub when young, but becomes scrambling or vinelike as it matures.

Like other Cactaceae, Pereskia aculeata has distinctive spine-bearing areoles, floral cups with leaf-bearing nodes, and numerous perianth (calyx and corolla) segments. The spines usually occur in pairs or trios in the leaf axils. The deciduous leaves of this species are waxy, alternately-arranged, and elliptical to oblong or ovate in shape. Yellow to white flowers are arranged in corymbs or panicles. The fruit is round and orange-yellow to red with leathery skin. The fruits, with only a few black to brown seeds inside, remain surrounded by the sepals of the calyx until ripe.

The Barbados gooseberry is native to much of Central America and South America. It is also naturalized in parts of the southern USA (Florida and Texas), China, South Africa and Australia. In Brazil, it is known as the ora-pro-nobis and is widely distributed between the states of Bahia and Rio Grande do Sul. In a study evaluating the nutritional components of this species by Takeiti et al. from the University of Campinas, the leaves of Pereskia aculeata were observed to have a high level of dietary fibre, plenty of minerals, high levels of vitamins including vitamin A, C and folic acid, and some essential amino acids. Due to their high nutritive content, those who live in less developed areas of Brazil eat the leaves of Pereskia aculeata as a vegetable (see: Takeiti et al. 2009. Nutritive evaluation of a non-conventional leafy vegetable (Pereskia aculeata Miller). International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 60(S1):148-160).

Mar 22, 2013: Mammillaria prolifera

Mammillaria prolifera

My favourite of the Volunteer Park Conservatory glasshouses was the cacti and succulents house, since I was pleased to see what could be accomplished with growing these typically sun-loving plants in an area of the world not known for its sunshine.

Mammillaria prolifera is native to Texas, Mexico, Cuba and Hispaniola. A variety in Texas and northern Mexico, Mammillaria prolifera var. texana, is recognized by the Flora of North America. The FNA also gives a hint to identifying the species (as long as one is north of the USA-Mexico border: "the hairlike radial spines of Mammillaria prolifera provide an instant means of identifying this species, even without reproductive material". Common names include Texas nipple cactus (note the red fruit in the background or see this photograph), little candles, and silver cluster cactus.

If search engine results are anything to go by, this species is relatively common in cultivation. Growing information is available via the RHS: Mammillaria prolifera.

Feb 19, 2013: Melocactus peruvianus

Melocactus peruvianus

Today's photograph and write-up are courtesy of one of my UBC Botanical Garden colleagues, Eric La Fountaine, taken during one of his visits to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona. Eric writes:

Because of their interesting and colourful form, species of Melocactus are a favourite of hobbyists. They have two distinct growth phases. In the juvenile phase, the typical-looking spiny globe or cylinder is formed. In the adult phase, a cephalium forms at the growth point of the base. This fuzzy-looking structure is a mass of areoles, which bear the reproductive structures. Cephalia can vary considerably in size, colour and structure. They are slow growing, but may persist for years and produce flowers each season (via Anderson's 2001 work, The Cactus Family).

Melocactus peruvianus is native to Peru and Ecuador at elevations below 1270 metres. Its dark green globose or cylindrical base grows to around 20 cm tall and wide. The cephalia are generally small, but can grow as tall as 20 cm. It forms bright red flowers and fruit.

May 15, 2012: Hylocereus costaricensis

Hylocereus costaricensis

With today's entry, we conclude Katherine Van Dijk's contributions as a work-study student for Botany Photo of the Day (though the official end date was actually two weeks ago). Thank you Katherine! For this entry, she writes:

To finish our series on white-flowered plants with medicinal properties, we have another wonderful contribution from 3Point141@Flickr. This photograph features Hylocereus costaricensis, commonly known as Costa Rica pitahaya, Costa Rica pitaya or Costa Rica night-blooming cactus. 3Point141@Flickr also has a 12 image set which captures the blooming of this magnificent species: Hylocereus costaricensis.

Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) describes Hylocereus costaricensis as a vigorous vine (up to 10cm in stem width), with white and yellow flowers sometimes exceeding 30cm in length. The site notes Hylocereus costaricensis as native to Costa Rica (costaricensis = "of Costa Rica"), Nicaragua and Panama, but unfortunately invasive in Hawaii.

Hylocereus and a few closely-related genera of cacti are well-known for their tasty dragon fruit or pitaya. The fruit of Hylocereus costaricensis is where medicinal uses are found. In Le Bellec, F. et al., 2006. Pitahaya (Hylocereus spp.): a new fruit crop, a market with a future (PDF). Fruits. 61:237-250, the authors note that dragonfruit is a significant source of antioxidants, including betalains. These compounds are currently being studied for medical efficacy, with some indications that they can be useful in preventing certain diseases (e.g., some forms of cancer). A different medicinal use for Hylocereus costaricensis was examined in a study which had results suggesting that an ethanol extract of the fruit pulp was successful in increasing sperm viability and production rate in mice (and could therefore presumably be used as a male fertility agent). See: Aziz, F. and M. Noor. 2010. Ethanol extract of dragon fruit and its effects on sperm quality and histology of the testes in mice. Biomedical Research. 21(2):126-130.

Oct 31, 2011: Echinopsis huascha

Echinopsis huascha

An entry written by Katherine today:

Today's photo of Echinopsis huascha was taken by James Gaither (J.G. in S.F.@Flickr) in July after a heavy fog, at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

Since Echinopsis comes from the Greek word echinos meaning "hedgehog" and opsis meaning "like", members of this genus are known as hedgehog cacti. Other common names include sea urchin cacti (sea urchins are echinoids / echinoderms) and Easter-lily cactus. Echinopsis huascha is specifically known as red torch cactus or desert's blooming jewel (in English). CactiGuide.com provides an extensive list of synonyms for Echinopsis huascha and photos to assist in identification.

Echinopsis huascha can grow up to 0.90m (3ft) with stems 5-8cm in diameter (2-3.2in). The flowers form near stem tips, and are 7-10cm (3.9in) long and 6-7cm (2.4-2.8in) in diameter. Flowers are usually red, but may also be orange (as shown) or yellow. Echinopsis huascha can grow in USDA zones 9 and 10, with plants hardy to temperatures of -10°C (15°F). The species requires sandy or gravelly soil with full sun. Like many cacti, it has low water requirements: very little water is needed during the summer, and none during winter.

Echinopsis huascha is native to northwestern Argentina, but is cultivated worldwide in areas with suitable habitat, possibly due in part to it being sold as a potted plant.

Nov 22, 2010: Pachycereus weberi

Pachycereus weberi

Claire again wrote today's entry:

Thank you to sweller of the UBC Botanical Garden Forums for this photograph of Pachycereus weberi (via the BPotD Submissions Forum).

Pachycereus weberi is known as candelabro, or Cardón Espinoso (the common name being an obvious reference to the resemblance of plants to candelabras). Its distribution ranges across desert scrub and deciduous forests of the southwestern Mexican states of Guererro, Puebla and Oaxaca. The genus has a native range of southern Arizona to Central America, and also includes the tallest cactus species, Pachycereus pringlei (an individual grew to 19.2m/63ft). In Pachycereus weberi, plants "only" reach approximately 10m tall and as nearly as wide.

Pachycereus weberi only produces white or yellow flowers. These bloom at night, with bats being the pollinators (as is common in the genus). The edible fruit has spines which dehisce when the fruit matures, possibly a mechanism to prevent eating of the unripe fruit. These spines (modified leaves), extend from the thick stem in a beautiful pattern (see some close-ups via Google Image Search). The seeds of the ripe fruit of Pachycereus weberi can be harvested and ground into a flour.

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