DixPix Photographs



  Flora:  CACTI-- LARGE  


There seems to be three centers of diversity for CACTACEAE, the Cactus Family.  One includes Mexico and adjacent territories, one holds out in northeastern Brazil and the third in the drier regions of the Southern Cordillera.  These populations have only a few genera in common.   In recent decades there have been many changes in cactus taxonomy, with frequent and ongoing shuffling of both genera and species.  Not all changes have met with universal agreement.  Of importance on this page, for example, the decision to toss the Trichocereus genus (among others) into Echinopsis appears to have met resistance from some quarters, notably from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. 

There are two books specifically on Cacti in the area of concern, one being Cactaceas en the Flora Silvestre de Chile, by Adriana Hoffmann and Helmut Walter ( 2nd edition, 2004).  The other is 100 Cactus Argentinos by Roberto Kiesling and Omar Ferrari; Instituto de Botanico Darwin, 2005.  The web site of Desert Tropicals has also proved helpful.

In view of the widespread appeal of Cacti and of the difficulties in assigning names, an unusually high portion of the photos in this sector were taken in botanical gardens.  Abbreviations which will be used in acknowledgements are as follows:  DBG- Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix; KEW Botanical Gardens, London; QPG- Quail (now San Diego) Botanical Gardens, Encinitas, California; UBBG- Botanical Gardens at the University of California, Berkeley; Chirau Mita- a cactus garden at Chilecito in La Rioja Province, Argentina.

This page deals with genera containing more or less large cacti.  Usually this translates as tall, but some are recumbent.  Species of less stature are treated under Cacti- small.


The Tuna Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) is Mexican by birth-right, but is now grown in sunny climates just about everywhere.  In Mexico, the leaves are eaten under the name of Nopal. Click to see big picture (556x480 pixels; 82 KB)
The delicious fruit are known as Prickly Pears in English and Tuna elsewhere.  Although most varieties of plant have few if any thorns, they are guarded by extremely fine aggravating hairs, technically glochids, which can be very painful and difficult to extract. Click to see big picture (351x480 pixels; 85 KB)
That white scruff is a protection put up to hide colonies of a scale insects (Dactylopius coccus).  When smeared, these bugs exude a bright red dye known as Cochineal.  This is much in demand for coloring foods and cosmetics such as lipstick.  Using this, products can claim to be "all natural" or "contain no artificial dyes".  YUK ! Click to see big picture (640x429 pixels; 76 KB)
Strange though it may seem, there is even a variegated form of the tuna cactus, officially Opuntia ficus-indica variegata.  This one is showing off at the Chirau Mita Cactus Gardens, it might not do so well in the wild.
Opuntia sulphurea is native to Bolivia and northwestern Argentina, extending its range well up into the Andes.  There are three varieties recognized. Click to see big picture (590x480 pixels; 118 KB)
Opuntia quitensis is native to Ecuador and Peru, although here at the KEW,  In gardening circles it may be referred to as Red Button Opuntia. Click to see big picture (575x480 pixels; 73 KB)
Also from Ecuador and the Peruvian highlands, Opuntia cylindrica, according to the Quail Botancial Gardens.  This now seems to have been reassigned to Austrocylindropuntia subulata. Click to see big picture (266x480 pixels; 52 KB)
This may be the most photographed cactus in Chile, a prime specimen of the Candelabro Cactus, Browningia candelaris, beside the Arica-Putre highway. Click to see big picture (347x480 pixels; 86 KB)
Most examples of Candelabro, however, don't look so much noble as they do confused.  The species in restricted to altitudes between 2000 and 3000 meters in the high Atacama of northern Chile and southern Peru. Click to see big picture (578x480 pixels; 148 KB)
 By far the most familiar columnar cactus is Echinopsis (or Trichocereus) chiloensis, one of the cacti called Quiscos.  It occurs along Chile's north coast and southward in semi-arid parts of the coastal mountains, but not as far south as the Island of Chiloe. 'Chiloensis' was likely an error for "chilensis', and some authors have made that correction. Click to see big picture (640x374 pixels; 104 KB)
In the semi-arid areas, quiscos can be planted to produce fences which are virtually impassable for man or beast alike.  Both Echinopsis and Eulychnia species are used in this manner. quisco fence
The flowers of the Quiscos are large and complex.  If you see red flowers or berries, that is a common parasite, the Quintral de Quisco. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 76 KB)
With pink tinges from the Combarbala area, this is likely the flower of Echinopsis (Trichocereus) skottsbergii), although there are other contenders.  This is a species of more restricted range. Click to see big picture (495x480 pixels; 86 KB)
Talk about a 'bad hair day', this species looks like it was designed to prevent birds landing.  It is Eulychnia brevifolia, found along the north coast of Chile where it is known as Capao. Click to see big picture (539x480 pixels; 83 KB)
The brief but spectacular flowering of Echinopsis (Trichocereus) candicans, a native of the central to southern Argentine Andes.  DBG. Click to see big picture (640x464 pixels; 132 KB)
A giant cactus of the Altiplano of Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, in this case in the Province of Salta, Echinopsis (Trichocereus) atacamensis. Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 90 KB)
Even as a youngster, this Echinopsis (Trichocereus) terscheckii at UBBG seems to have an 'attitude'. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 144 KB)
Switch to the mountain slopes of La Rioja Province, Argentina, where E.terscheckii is a giant with pollinators hovering in formation waiting their turn.  It has been called the Argentine Saguaro, but locally is known as Cardon Grande or Achuma..  'Cardo' here refers to use of the thorns in 'carding' or straightening raw wool. Click to see big picture (640x333 pixels; 80 KB)
At the nearby Chirau Mita cactus garden, an example of the 'monstroso' form of E. terscheckii. Click to see big picture (414x480 pixels; 108 KB)
Once again from the La Rioja area of Argentina, Echinopsis strigosa or Trichocereus strigosus approx.  It is known as the Velas de la Virgen. Click to see big picture (496x480 pixels; 106 KB)
A closer look at the Velas Virgen flower.  It is found in the rain shadows of west central Argentina. Click to see big picture (602x480 pixels; 109 KB)
Not all of this genus have white flowers.  This is Echinopsis (Trichocereus) huascha which seems to be mainly found in the La Rioja sector of Argentina, but here at UBBG.
Echinopsis thelegona or Trichocereus thelegonus is betimes known as Sprawling Torch.  It occurs in northwestern Argentina, but is here showing off at the San Diego Zoo. Click to see big picture (611x480 pixels; 143 KB)
An unidentified Echinopsis/Trichocereus? from high altitude in western Peru. Click to see big picture (640x356 pixels; 92 KB)
A closer look at a large cactus and its fruit from the heights of Western Peru.  This may well be a Corryocactus. echinopsisx
A yellow-flower cactus adorning the dry hills above the city of Arequipa in southern Peru.   This is Corryocactus brevistylus, locally Guacalla.  It also inhabits northernmost Chile and adjacent parts of Bolivia. corryo
And while high in those same mountains, a cholla-like cactus, likely Austrocylindropuntia exaltata approx. Click to see big picture (599x480 pixels; 132 KB)
A close-up of the flower and spines of A. exaltata. Click to see big picture (538x480 pixels; 127 KB)
From about 4000 meters in the Chila Range of southern Peru, another species of Cholla-like cacti with flowers that don't seem to completely open.  It seems to be Opuntia (or Austrocylindroputnia) sp..
Armatocereus matucanensis is a large cactus, found mainly in Peru.  Photo from Lotusland in Montecito, California.
Turning now to the genus Cleistocactus.  On the left is C. hyalacanthus, according to KEW.  It native range is the high Andes of northwestern Argentina.  On the right is an unidentified species with an excellent view of the unusual, closed Cleistocactus flower. Click to see big picture (640x426 pixels; 133 KB)
Another of the genus from northwest Argentina and Bolivia is Cleistocactus baumannii, at Chirau Mita.  This is one of the cacti locally called Cola de Gato (cat's tail). Click to see big picture (258x480 pixels; 72 KB)
Cleistocactus candelilla, a Bolivian cactus hiding out at UBBG. Click to see big picture (270x480 pixels; 78 KB)
Another Bolivian on display at UBBG is Cleistocactus strausii, whose copious white 'hairs' have earned the name Silvertorch. Click to see big picture (391x480 pixels; 80 KB)
Yet another Bolivian in the genus, Cleistocacatus tarijensis.  UBBG
These things are all starting to look alike.  This one is Cleistocactus hyalacanthus which calls northwestern Argentina and southern Bolivia home.
Back to Cleistocactus baumannii, in this case variety flavispinus, at the DBG.  This creeps up into the Andes of Bolivia and northwest Argentina from the east. Click to see big picture (302x480 pixels; 68 KB)
Cleistocactus (or Borzicactus) plagiostoma is here presented at Lotusland in Montecito, California.  It is native to a restricted area of central Peru.
From the same gardens this is Cleistocactus (or Borzicacatus) fieldianus.  It is fairly widely distributed in Peru, and has found favor in gardening circles.
Cleistocactus smaragdiflorus (or C. ferrarii) is a colorful species from northwestern Argentina and adjacent Bolivia.  Here at Lotusland in Montecito, California.
Here is a closer view of the handsome flowers of C. smaragdiflorus.
Two different  orange-colored cacti from the alpine zones of Peru. Click to see big picture (640x356 pixels; 126 KB)
Thrixanthocereus blossfeldiorum is a bit of a mystery, and of taxonomic doubt.  It is generally associated with Peru.  Photo from Lotusland, Montecito, Calif.
Mila caespitosa, DBG.  The Mila genus is a small one of Cacti from western Peru, in fact Mila is an anagram of Lima. Click to see big picture (593x480 pixels; 147 KB)
One of the reclining cacti from Bolivia.  This was known as Cleistocactus winterii, but that seems to be changed to Winterocereus aureispinus KEW.  It has entered garden circles as the Golden Rat-tail Cactus. Click to see big picture (429x480 pixels; 99 KB)
Returning to the mountains of Peru, a reclining species similar to the rat-tail.  There area those who might call this Opuntia diffusa, but lets give the taxonomers another decade. Click to see big picture (640x431 pixels; 130 KB)
Weberbauerocereus rauhii makes amends for its long name with a lovely flower.  It is said to be native to southern Peru, and is here growing at Lotusland, California.