DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora:- CACTI  

 

There are over 1500 species in the Cactus Family, Cactaceae.  These are children of the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of stringy Rhipsalis baccifera, which somehow spread itself across central Africa.  Cactus-appearing adaptations to arid conditions in other parts of the world are from the Euphorbia or other families.

Most cacti (the plural also written cactuses) have leaves modified into spines growing from centers known as areoles, and perform photosynthesis from the skin of a trunk which has been enlarged to store water.  These are clearly adaptations to arid conditions, and only a few species are actually at home in humid tropical forests.  In addition, however, several species based in central Mexico are found at least as far south as Oaxaca State.   Cacti are popular, in desert gardens and as houseplants elsewhere.  Admirers have formed many associations and websites, and experts have produced many books, so an array of information sources are at hand.

 

The Hylocereus genus involves tropical, epiphytic, night-blooming cacti, with edible fruit.  The photo on the right shows how specialized roots can be used to climb trees.  This is H. undatus. Click to see big picture (640x469 pixels; 157 KB)
These fruit are known as Pitaya (pitahaya), or as Dragon Fruit in English.  This example, red covering and white interior, is the gift of Hylocereus undatus, the most widely seen in commerce.  Although native to Mexico and Central America, it is more appreciated in the Orient, where they are now grown in abundance. Click to see big picture (640x371 pixels; 95 KB)
Another species, Hylocereus costaricensis produces a more locally available fruit with red flesh. It may be found from Nicaragua to Panama, but is most prominent in Costa Rica as the name suggests. Click to see big picture (607x480 pixels; 161 KB)
H. costaricensis has more spiny ridges than H. undatus, the two species having overlapping ranges. Click to see big picture (640x398 pixels; 144 KB)
Another species with edible fruit is Cereus hexagonus.  It is known as the Lady of the Night in view of its night-blooming habit, and is native to the northern part of South America.  As the name would suggest, it has more or less six sides. Click to see big picture (603x480 pixels; 73 KB)
Stenocereus aragonii is a simple column cactus, endemic to Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (394x480 pixels; 118 KB)
The other major edibles in the cactus family are of the widespread Opuntia genus.  This is the most common, Opuntia ficus-indica, which is Mexican by origin, but now widely planted.  Note that instead of spines this species has clusters of hair-like glochids.  These are barbed and painful. Click to see big picture (556x480 pixels; 82 KB)
The edible fruit are known as Prickly Pear in English and Tuna elsewhere.  The cactus pads are also edible when young, and go by the name of Nopal.  They are more widely used as fodder. In Mexico an alcoholic drink is made of the fruit known as Colonche. Click to see big picture (521x480 pixels; 98 KB)
Opuntia decumbens forms a tree cactus native from Mexico to Costa Rica.  It goes by names such as Nopal de Culebra and Lengua de Vaca.  This latter Cow's Tongue name seems to be applied to several species with glochid clusters rather than spines. Click to see big picture (640x413 pixels; 105 KB)
The complex flower of Opuntia cochenillifera may also be encountered from Mexico to Costa Rica.  Some taxonomists place this in a break-away genus Nopalea. Click to see big picture (626x480 pixels; 69 KB)
As with some other Opuntia species, cochenillifera can form a cactus tree, in this case on an island in Lago Nicaragua.  Click to see big picture (410x480 pixels; 90 KB)
Opuntia stenopetala is to be found in Mexico as far south as Oaxaca.  Its English name is Fire-flowered Prickly Pear.  In Mexico it is commonly called Nopal Serrano, referring to it highland habits.  This specimen, however, blooms at the botanical gardens at University of Berkeley. Click to see big picture (559x480 pixels; 133 KB)
The fruit of the Fire-flowered Prickly Pear is indeed prickly.  They carry both thorns and glochids.
Cow's Tongue Cactus is one of several names for Opuntia engelmannii, which is mainly found in the southern US and into central Mexico, but under names such as Vela de Coyote does make it farther south. Click to see big picture (640x447 pixels; 93 KB)
Opuntia species often host a parasitic scale insect (Dactylopius coccus), which hides below a white scum.  When smeared, these bugs yield a carmine dye called Cochineal.  This is a product in great demand as coloring for lipsticks, meat and other foods.  Using this, one can claim "no artificial dyes".  Customers are ignorant of the 'Yuk Factor'. Click to see big picture (640x429 pixels; 87 KB)
Polaskia chichipe is native to central Mexico, where it is known as Chichituna.  Photo from Lotusland, Montecito, Calif.
A flower of the Chichituna cactus.  The fruit are large, red and edible.
Acanthocereus tetragonus is a cactus with between three and five sides, native to the northern half of the Neotropics. Click to see big picture (598x480 pixels; 124 KB)
Armatocereus godingianus is found at moderate elevations in Ecuador, but here rooted a Lotusland, Montecito, California.
An unidentified cactus tree on the rim of the Amazon basin. Click to see big picture (542x480 pixels; 86 KB)
It is known as the Crow's Food Cactus or Devil's Tongue Barrel.  With a variety of subspecies, Ferocactus latispinus calls central and southern Mexico home.  Click to see big picture (549x480 pixels; 155 KB)
It is actually the spiralis subspecies of Ferocactus latispinus that makes it south into Oaxaca State.  This was once called F. recurvus. Click to see big picture (617x480 pixels; 93 KB)
And from northeastern Mexico (but rooted at Lotusland, California), this is Ferocactus glaucescens.
Ferocacatus schwarzii at Lotusland again.  In nature, this is said to be a rare and threatened species from the Sinaloa area of Mexico.
A full view of Ferocactus schwarzii.  Apparently as this species ages, it progressively looses its thorns.
Echinocactus platyacanthus is a huge barrel cactus known as Biznaga Gigante.  It is native to central and southern Mexico, although this one is in the botanical gardens in Denver.  Biznaga is one of the cacti which was sacred to the indigenous tribes. Click to see big picture (640x425 pixels; 139 KB)
The Golden Barrel cactus, Echinocactus grusonii is another giant of south-central Mexico, which has been planted widely beyond.  Known as Barril de Oro, and by the more colorful name, Asiento de la Suegra (mother-in-law's seat) Click to see big picture (492x480 pixels; 117 KB)
A very different cactus marked Echinocactus sp. at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens.  Apparently from the Hildago area, Mexico.
Coryphantha pycnacantha is not really a jungle bunny at heart, but does get as far south as Chiapis State. Click to see big picture (547x480 pixels; 127 KB)
Here are two versions of Astrophytum myriostigma, known as the Bishop's Mitre.  It mainly hangs out in Central Mexico, but comes farther south in the higher mountains.  These, however, are far from home at the Chirau Mita cactus garden in Argentina. Click to see big picture (640x403 pixels; 101 KB)
And from the same Argentine garden, this is Mammillaria ignota, also known as M. albilanata ssp. oaxacana. Click to see big picture (493x480 pixels; 102 KB)
Known in English as Mother of Hundreds, Mammillaria compressa is of Mexican origin, but more common in cactus gardens, in this case Lotusland, Montecito, Calif.
We turn back to the Berkeley gardens for Mammillaria varieaculeata, a clump cactus at home in the Pueble-Oaxaca region of Mexico.
Known as the Mexican Pincushion, Mammillaria magnimamma is common in central Mexico, forming mounds even on barren ground.  Lotusland, Montecito, California.
The flowers of Mammillaria elongata may be yellow, white or pink.  It is fairly common in the wild in central Mexico, and in gardens goes by the name of Golden Stars.
Mammillaria geminispina is another citizen of central Mexico, and it is called the Twin-spine Cactus.  Lotusland, Montecito, California.
One of the cacti known as Oldman Cactus, or Cacto Viejo.   Cephalocereus senilis started out in east-central Mexico, but has been widely planted.  No, it is not a self-portrait of the author. Click to see big picture (422x480 pixels; 86 KB)
An enormous version of the Mexican Oldman Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis), here divided into two photos at the Botanical Gardens of Bogota.
Yet another white-haired species.  This is the Woolly Torch cactus (Pilosocereus leucocephalus) which ranges from here in Mexico through much of Central America.  It has also been planted widely as a garden oddity.
Pilosocereus purpusii is another woolly Mexican that goes by the name of Viejos.  Lotusland, Montecito, California.
The sprawling but beautiful Disocactus (or Aporocactus) martianus ranges from southern Mexico to northern South America.  This one, however, seems to have adapted to the gray London skies at the KEW Gardens. Click to see big picture (460x480 pixels; 96 KB)
Echinocereus pentalophus procumbens is another reclining beauty, native to northeastern Mexico, by here at the Mattheai Gardens.
The Salmon-flowered Hedgehog, Echinocereus polyacanthus ssp. huitcholensis at UC Berkeley.  This is said to belong in the Durango and Sinaloa region of Mexico.  There are several subspecies.
These epiphytic rat-tail cacti of southern Mexico are of the small Aporocactus genus. Click to see big picture (577x480 pixels; 162 KB)
Rhipsalis baccifera is the only cactus to have escaped the western hemisphere to populate central Africa.  It likely carried out this feat in the stomach of a bird. Mistletoe Cactus is one of the English handles. Click to see big picture (531x480 pixels; 125 KB)
There are several epiphytic Rhipsalis species, and the nomenclature is a mess.  This is from southeast Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (640x442 pixels; 88 KB)