Botany

Cactaceae: The cactus family

Content Cover Image

Cactaceae cactus (By Paolo Neo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The Cactaceae is a family belonging to the order Caryophyllales.  Cacti typically are found in  dry and arid desert or semi-desert regions  with high average daytime temperatures and cold nights, and high evaporation rates.  Cacti range from Canada to Argentina, predominantly occurring in the warm and arid reaches of the continents of both North and South America across a wide range of different habitats like deserts, sandy coastal stretches, scrublands, dry deciduous forests, high alpine steppes and tropical rain forests (Barthlott and Hunt, 1993; Gibson and Nobel, 1986; Nyffeler, 2001). The main diversity centers are Mexico and south-west USA, central Andes, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina with Mexico being the richest and most endemic region (Boyle and Anderson, 2002; Ortega-Baes and Godínez-Alvarez, 2006). The family is classified into three subfamilies: Pereskioideae, Opuntioideae, and Cactoideae (Schumann, 1899; Barthlott and Hunt, 1993).

Physical Description

Cacti show remarkable variation in growth form including large tree-like or columnar forms, solitary or clumped globular or globose habits,  and even epiphytes and climbers. Cacti are characterized by highly organized fleshy stems and branches either bearing reduced or highly modified leaves or leaves are often replaced by specialized spines, hairs, bristles or scales borne to a central swollen fleshy structure called the areoles, which in turn is understood according to botanists to be a reduced form of a branch. Most cacti members are characterized by the presence of areole an important diagnostic character of the family. Among other important reproductive diagnostic characters of the family include presence of composite tubular floral structure, pericarpels and tepals. Cacti are champions of adaptations to difficult environment and are a great model of understanding plant evolutionary biology.

True leaves are quite rare among the family members to cope with their harsh desert environment. They generally have thin or think flattened or rounded stems for efficient absorption of available moisture in their dry and arid habitats with very little or low availability of water. Most terrestrial cacti have small or large spines as an effective protective measure against herbivores as well as for preventing the loss of moisture; while epiphytic members and climbers of the family usually have hairs or bristles providing similar function. This areolar arrangement of spines, bristles or scales show wide diversity among different members of the family showcasing spectacular morphological adaptations (Fig 1). The root system of several species have been found to be long, branched with intricate interwoven networks reaching great depths below the arid soil surface in search of available water of the water table. Cacti flowers are highly colorful and attractive bearing both accessory and reproductive whorls including intergrading sepals and petals forming composite tubular structure (with wide morphological modifications among different members), multiple stamens, single style and muti-lobed stigma. The flowers vary in color, shape and form across different genera and species (Figs 1-3) demonstrating a kaleidoscope of color and spectacular forms adorning their dry, desert gardens.

Figure 1. Diversity of morphology, vegetative and reproductive structures among different members of the Cactaceae family (Photos: Ratnabali Sengupta).

 

Figure 2. Ornamental cactus. 1. Astrophytum myriostigma Lem. 2. Astrophytum myriostigma var. quadricostatum (H. Moeller) Baum. 3. Astrophytum asterias (Zucc.) Lem. 4. Mammillaria elongata DC. 5. Gymnocalycium mihanovichii (Frič & Gürke) Britton & Ros. 6. Mammillaria mazatlanensis K. Schum. 7. Mammillaria sp. 8. Mammillaria aff. rosealba. 9. Mammillaria ignota Repp. 10. Leuchtenbergia principis Hook. 11. Espotoa sp. 12. Mammillaria longiflora (Britton & Rose) A. Berger. 13. Melocactus azureus Buining & Brederoo. 14. Parodia haselbergii (F. Haage) F.H. Brandt. 15. Mammillaria giselae Mart.-Aval. & Glass. (Photos: W. Cetzal-Ix).

 

Figure 3. Ornamental cactus.. 1. Discocactus zehntneri Britton & Rose. 2. Mammillaria hernandezii Glass & R.A. Foster. 3. Mammillaria albicoma Boed. 4. Obregonia denegrii Frič. 5. Mammillaria plumosa F.A.C. Weber. 6. Opuntia microdasys (Lehm.) Pfeiff. 7. Mammillaria bocasana Poselger. 8. Mammillaria sp. 9. Mammillaria longiflora subsp. stampferi (Repp.) D.R. Hunt. 10. Geohintonia mexicana Glass & Fitz Maurice. 11. Coryphantha sp. 12. Sulcorebutia rauschii G. Frank. 13. Neoporteria nidus (Söhrens) Britton & Rose. 14. Gymnocalycium chiquitanum Cárdenas. 15. Mammillaria sp. 16. Opuntia sp. (Photos: W. Cetzal-Ix).

 

Figure 4. A-B. Plant shops showing variety of Cactaceae members for sale at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, D. Taijen, Taiwan, C. & E. Kolkata, West Bengal, India; F. Floral show displaying different ornamental varieties of Cactaceae at New Barrackpore, North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, India. [Photo credits: A, B & D. Peiman Zandi; C. & E. Saikat Basu & F. Ratnabali Sengupta]

 

Physiological Adaptations

All cacti are succulents meaning that they have highly specialized water storage tissues. Another interesting physiological specialization of cacti is that most undergo the Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) pathway for photosynthesis that involves CO2 intake at night for conserving moisture due to comparatively lower rates of evaporation at night. The cacti capture the absorbed CO2 as an acid in this metabolic pathway which is eventually released during the day for the purpose of photosynthesis. Due to their low maintenance requirements and ability to withstand harsh environments, cacti have become extremely popular as ornamental and horticultural plants all across the planet. They are considered as “evolutionary milestones” in the history of plant evolution for colonizing the planet and demands respect from us in conserving and protecting several wild species in nature that have been seriously threatened by anthropogenic activities and global climate change.

List of members representing Cactaceae family is presented in table 1.

Table 1. Plants belonging to Cactaceae family.

 

Ref.

Species & accepted Taxa

Genera

Family

USDA, 2014

Acanthocereus tetragonus (L.) Humm.

Acanthocereus (Engelm. ex A. Berger) Britton & Rose

Cactaceae

USDA, 2014

Ariocarpus fissuratus (Engelm.) K. Schum.

Ariocarpus Scheidw.

USDA, 2014

Astrophytum asterias (Zucc.) Lem.

Astrophytum Lem.

USDA, 2014

Astrophytum myriostigma Lem.

USDA, 2014

Bergerocactus emoryi (Engelm.) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Borzicactus ventimiglia, Riccob.

Borzicactus Riccob.

USDA, 2014

Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis (Willd.) A. Berger

Brasiliopuntia (K. Schum.) A. Berger

USDA, 2014

Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose

Carnegiea Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Cephalocereus senilis (Haw.) Pfeiff.

Cephalocereus Pfeiff.

USDA, 2014

Cereus hexagonus (L.) Mill.

Cereus Mill.

USDA, 2014

Cereus hildmannianus K. Schum.

USDA, 2014

Cleistocactus baumannii (Lem.) Lem.

Cleistocactus Lem.

USDA, 2014

Consolea corallicola Small

Consolea Lem.

USDA, 2014

Consolea moniliformis (L.) Britton

USDA, 2014

Corryocactus apiciflorus (Vaupel) Hutchison

Corryocactus Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Corryocactus aureus (Meyen) Hutchison ex Buxbaum

USDA, 2014

Coryphantha echinus (Engelm.) Britton & Rose

Coryphantha (Engelm.) Lem.

USDA, 2014

Coryphantha macromeris (Engelm.) Lem.

USDA, 2014

Cylindropuntia abysii (Hester) Backeb.

Cylindropuntia (Engelm.) Kreuzinger

USDA, 2014

Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa (Engelm. & J.M. Bigelow) F.M. Knuth

USDA, 2014

Eccremocactus bradei Britton & Rose

Eccremocactus Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Echinocactus horizonthalonius Lem.

Echinocactus Link & Otto

USDA, 2014

Echinocactus polycephalus Engelm. & J.M. Bigelow

USDA, 2014

Echinocactus texensis Hopffer

USDA, 2014

Echinocereus apachensis Blum & Rutow

Echinocereus Engelm.

USDA, 2014

Echinocereus berlandieri (Engelm.) Haage

USDA, 2014

Echinomastus erectocentrus (J.M. Coult.) Britton & Rose

Echinomastus Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Echinomastus intertextus (Engelm.) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Echinopsis candicans (Gillies ex Salm-Dyck) F.A.C. Weber ex D.R. Hunt

Echinopsis Zuccagni

USDA, 2014

Echinopsis rojasii Cardenas

USDA, 2014

Epiphyllum ackermanii Haw.

Epiphyllum Haw.

USDA, 2014

Epiphyllum hookeri (Link & Otto) Haw.

USDA, 2014

Epiphyllum oxypetalum (DC.) Haw.

USDA, 2014

Epithelantha bokei L.D. Benson

Epithelantha F.A.C. Weber ex Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Epithelantha micromeris (Engelm.) F.A.C. Weber ex Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Escobaria albicolumnaria Hester

Escobaria Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Escobaria alversonii (J.M. Coult.) N.P. Taylor

USDA, 2014

Ferocactus cylindraceus (Engelm.) Orcutt

Ferocactus Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Ferocactus eastwoodiae (L.D. Benson) L.D. Benson

USDA, 2014

Ferocactus emoryi (Engelm.) Orcutt

USDA, 2014

Grusonia aggeria (B.E. Ralston & Hilsenb.) E.F. Anderson

Grusonia Rchb. ex Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Grusonia clavata (Engelm.) H. Rob.

USDA, 2014

Hamatocactus hamatocanthus (Muhlph.) F.M. Kunth

Hamatocactus Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Harrisia aboriginum Small

Harrisia Britton

Cactaceae

USDA, 2014

Harrisia eriophora (N.E. Pfeiffer) Britton

USDA, 2014

Hatiora gaertneri (Regel) Barthlott

Hatiora Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Hylocereus costaricensis (F.A.C. Weber) Britton & Rose

Hylocereus (A. Berger) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Hylocereus trigonus (Haw.) Saff.

USDA, 2014

Hylocereus undatus (Haw.) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Leptocereus grantianus Britton

Leptocereus (A. Berger) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Leptocereus quadricostatus (Bello) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Lobivia arachnacantha Buining & F. Ritter

Lobivia Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Lobivia caespitosa (J.A. Purpus) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Lophophora williamsii (Lem. ex Salm-Dyck) J.M. Coult.

Lophophora J.M. Coult.

USDA, 2014

Mammillaria barbata Engelm.

Mammillaria Haw.

USDA, 2014

Mammillaria dioica K. Brandegee

USDA, 2014

Melocactus intortus (Mill.) Urb.

Melocactus Link & Otto

USDA, 2014

Neolloydia conoidea (DC.) Britton & Rose

Neolloydia Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Notocactus acuatus (Link & Otto) S.Theun.

Notocactus (K.M. Schum.) Backeb. & F.M. Knuth

USDA, 2014

Opuntia aciculata Griffiths

Opuntia Mill.

USDA, 2014

Opuntia ammophila Small

USDA, 2014

Pachycereus schottii (Engelm.) D.R. Hunt

Pachycereus (A. Berger) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Parodia concinna (Monv.) N.P. Taylor

Parodia Speg.

USDA, 2014

Pediocactus bradyi L.D. Benson

Pediocactus Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Pediocactus despainii S.L. Welsh & Goodrich

USDA, 2014

Pediocactus knowltonii L.D. Benson

USDA, 2014

Peniocereus greggii (Engelm.) Britton & Rose

Peniocereus (A. Berger) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Peniocereus greggii (Engelm.) Britton & Rose var. greggii

USDA, 2014

Peniocereus greggii (Engelm.) Britton & Rose var. transmontanus (Engelm.) Backeb

USDA, 2014

Peniocereus striatus (Brandegee) Buxbaum

USDA, 2014

Pereskia aculeata Mill.

Pereskia Mill.

USDA, 2014

Pereskia grandifolia Haw.

USDA, 2014

Pilosocereus polygonus (Lam.) Byles & Rowley

Pilosocereus Byles & Rowley

USDA, 2014

Pilosocereus royenii (L.) Byles & Rowley

USDA, 2014

Rebutia minuscula K. Schum.

Rebutia K. Schum.

USDA, 2014

Rhipsalis baccifera (Sol. ex J.S. Muell.) Stearn

Rhipsalis Gaertn.

USDA, 2014

Schlumbergera truncata (Haw.) Moran

Schlumbergera Lem.

USDA, 2014

Sclerocactus brevihamatus (Engelm.) D.R. Hunt

Sclerocactus Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Sclerocactus brevispinus K.D. Heil & J.M. Porter

USDA, 2014

Sclerocactus glaucus (J.A. Purpus ex K. Schum.) L.D. Benson

USDA, 2014

Selenicereus coniflorus (Weingart) Britton & Rose

Selenicereus (A. Berger) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Selenicereus grandiflorus (L.) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Stenocereus fimbriatus (Lam.) Lourteig

Stenocereus (A. Berger) Riccob.

USDA, 2014

Stenocereus thurberi (Engelm.) Buxbaum

USDA, 2014

Thelocactus bicolor (Galeotti ex N.E. Pfeiffer) Britton & Rose

Thelocactus (K. Schum.) Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Thelocactus setispinus (Engelm.) E.F. Anderson

USDA, 2014

Trichocereus auricolor Backeb.

Trichocereus (A. Berger) Riccob.

USDA, 2014

Trichocereus callianthus F. Ritter

USDA, 2014

Trichocereus grandiflorus Backeb.

USDA, 2014

Trichocereus peruvianus Britton & Rose

USDA, 2014

Trichocereus uyupampensis Backeb.

USDA, 2014

Wigginsia fricii (Arechav.) D.M. Porter

Wigginsia D.M. Porter

 

 

References and Further Reading

 

  • Anderson, Edward F. 1961 A taxonomic revision of Ariocarpus,Lophophora, Pelecyphora and Obregonia. PhD Dissertation,Claremont College.
  • Anderson, Edward F. 1962. A revision of Ariocarpus (Cactaceae). II. The status of the proposed genus Neogomesia. The American Journal of Botany 49 (6): 615-622.
  • Anderson, Edward F. 1966. The biography, ecology and taxonomy of Lophophora (Cactaceae). Brittonia 21: 299-310.
  • Barthlott WD, Hunt DR 1993. Cactaceae. In: Kubitzki K, Rohwer JG, Bittrich V(eds.), Flowering plants: Dicotyledons, The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants Volume 2, 1993, pp 161-197, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Germany
  • Boyle TH, Anderson E. 2002. Biodiversity and Conservation. In: Nobel, P.S. eds. (2002) Cacti. Biology and Uses. University of California Press, Los Angeles, pp. 125-141.
  • Bruhn, J. C. 1975. Phenethylamines of Ariocarpus scapharostrus. Phytochemistry 15:2509-2510.
  • Bruhn, J. C. and C. Bruhn. 1973. Alkaloids and ethnobotany of Mexican Peyote cacti and related species. Economic Botany 27(2):241-251.
  • Casas A, Cruse-Sanders J, Morales E, Otero-Arnaiz A, Valiente-Banuet A. 2006, Maintenance of phenotypic and genotypic diversity in managed populations of Stenocereus stellatus (Cactaceae) by indigenous peoples in Central Mexico. Biodiversity Conservation 15:879-898.
  • Castaneda, M. 1941. A new cactus. Cactus and Succulent Journal of America 13:98-99.
  • caption OpenURL Cavalcanti Filho JRC. 2010. A água como elo de identidades sociais no semi-árido paraibano: estudo de caso, Cabaceiras. Centro Universitário de Araraquara: Dissertação de mestrado (Mestrado em Desenvolvimento Regional e Meio Ambiente);196p. caption OpenURL  
  • Coulter, John Merle. 1894. Preliminary revision of the North American species of Cactus, Anhalonium, and Lophophora. Contributions from the U. S. National Herbarium 3(2):91-132.
  • Dominguez, X. A., P. Rojas, M. Gutiérrez, N. Armenta and G de Lara. 1969. Estudio quimico preliminar de 31 cactáceas. Revista de Ia Sociedad Quimica de Mexico 13(1):8A-12A.
  • Dominguez, X. A., R. H. Ramirez, 0. L. Ugaz, J. Garcia D., and R. Ketcham. 1968. Chemical study of the cactus Ariocarpus retusus. Planta Medica 16(2):182-183.
  • Fernández-Alonso JL, 2006. Nueva especie colombiana de Browningia (Cactaceae, Cactoideae, Browningieae) potencialmente promisoria para el país. Revista de la Academia de Ciências Exactas, Físicas y Naturales. 30(114):19-30. 
  • Fitz Maurice, W.A. and B. Fizt Maurice. 1999. Fieldnotes Cact Succ J (U S) 71 271-272..New Locations for Ariocarpus agavoides.
  • Fitz Maurice, W A , and T E Davis 1987. Fieldnotes Cact Succ J (U S) 59 144-145.
  • Fuentes VR. 2005. Etnobotánica de Cactaceae em Cuba. In Memorias del Taller Conservación de cactus Cubanos. Cuba: Jardim Botánico Nacional, Universidad de La Habana. pp.15-24. 
  • Furst, Peter T. 1971. Ariocarpus retusus, the 'False Peyote' of Huichol Tradition. Economic Botany 25(2):182-187.
  • Furst, Peter T. 1972. To find our life: Peyote among the Huichol Indians of Mexico. In: P. Furst, editor, Flesh of the Gods. Praeger Publishers, New York, pp. 136-184.
  • Gibson AC, Nobel PS. 1986. The cactus primer. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Glass, Charles and Robert Foster. 1974. Ariocarpus, Living Rock Cactus. Cactus and Succulent Journal of America 46(4):172-174.
  • Gonzalez Q., L. 1972. Las Cactáceas Subfósiles de Tehuacán, Pue. Cactáceas y Suculentas Mexicanas 17(1):3-15.
  • Jiménez-Sierra CL, Eguiarte LE, 2010. Candy barrel cactus (Echinocactus platyacantus Link & Otto): a traditional plant resource in Mexico subject to uncontrolled extraction and browsing. Economic Botany. 64(2):99-108.
  • Kiesling, R. 1982. The genus Pterocactus. The Cactus and Succulent Journal of Great Britain 44 3:51–56.
  • Kiesling, R. 2002. Pterocactus. (Cactaceae), nuevo registro para la flora de Chile. Gayana Botánica 59 2:61–63.
  • Kiesling, R., J. Márquez, and N. Taylor. 2008. Pterocactus gonjianii. Curtis's Botanical Magazine 26 1–2:43–53.
  • Lima JL. 1996. Plantas forrageiras das caatingas: usos e potencialidades. Petrolina: EMBRAPA, Brazil. 
  • Loza-Cornejo, S. and T. Terrazas. 1997. Stem and root anatomy of two species of Wilcoxia Britton and Rose (Cactaceae) of northeast Mexico. Boletín de la Sociedad Botánica de México 59:13–23.
  • Loza-Cornejo, S. and T. Terrazas. 2003. Epidermal and hypodermal characteristics in North American Cactoideae (Cactaceae). Journal of Plant Research 116:27–35.
  • Lyshede, O. B. 1982. Structure of the outer epidermal wall in xerophytes. In The Plant Cuticle. pp 87–98. Cutler, D. F., K. L. Alvin, and C. E. Price. eds. Academic Press. London.
  • Nyffeler R. 2001. Phylogenetic relationships in the cactus family (Cactaceae) based on evidence from  trnK/ matK and trnL-trnF sequences. doi: 10.3732/ajb.89.2.312 Am. J. Bot. February 2002 vol. 89 no. 2 312-326
  • Ortega-Baes P, Godínez-Alvarez H. 2006. Global Diversity and Conservation Priorities in the Cactaceae. Biodiversity & Conservation, 15(3):817-827.
  • Phillips O, Gentry AH, 1993. The useful plants of Tambopata, Peru: II. Additional hypothesis testing in quantitative ethnobotany. Econ Bot. 47:33-43.
  • Phillips O, Gentry AH. 1993. The useful plants of tambopata, Peru: I. Statistical hypothesis tests with a new quantitative technique. Econ Bot 1993, 47:15-32.
  • Pyke GH, 1984. Optimal foraging theory: a critical review. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst.15:523-575.
  • Schumann K. 1899. Gesamtbeschreibung der Kakteen. Verlag J. Neumann, Neudamm, Germany.
  • Sih A, Christensen B. 2001. Optimal diet theory: when does it work, and when and why does it fail? Anim Behav 2001, 61(2):379-390.
  • USDA. 2014. Classification for Kingdom Plantae Down to Family Solanaceae. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Available at: https://plants.usda.gov/java/ClassificationServlet?source=profile&symbol=Solanaceae&display=63 [Accessed on 28th June, 2014]
  • Voldan, NI. 1976. Ariocarpus trigonus (Weber) K. Schumann var. minor Voldan, eine neue varietaet. Kakteen und andere Sukkulenten 27(11): 242-243.
 
Glossary

Citation

Basu, S., Sengupta, R., Zandi, P., & Cetzal-Ix, W. (2014). Cactaceae: The cactus family. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/53cebc870cf2d022a359c880

0 Comments

To add a comment, please Log In.