Cactus (Ariocarpus trigonus)

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Mature Ariocarpus trigonus in limestone
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Cactus fact file

Cactus description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderCaryophyllales
FamilyCactaceae
GenusAriocarpus (1)

This striking cactus (Ariocarpus trigonus) is only visible from its claw-like tubercles that emerge through the soil; the majority of the stem remains hidden underground (2). Unusually amongst cacti, the yellow-green plant is spineless, lacking areoles on the smooth upper surface of the tubercles (2). Lemon-yellow flowers emerge in a ring on the crown of the stem and when fertilised these develop into small white berries (4).

Size
Diameter: up to 30 cm (2)
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Cactus biology

This cactus flowers between September and December, fruits develop in the spring and the rains (which begin in May) help to disperse the seeds by washing them from the centre of the plant (2).

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Cactus range

Ariocarpus trigonus is found over a fairly wide geographical range in northeastern Mexico, from the eastern edge of the mountains of the Sierra Madre Oriental, and concentrated in the Valley of Jaumave in the state of Tamaulipas (2).

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Cactus habitat

Ariocarpus trigonus inhabits dry thorn forest and scrubland amongst very rocky soil, or limestone gravel. It is found on low hills, at altitudes between 200 and 800 metres above sea level (2).

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Cactus status

This cactus is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Cactus threats

Members of the genus Ariocarpus are known as 'living rock' or 'fossil cacti' due to their unusual appearance (4), and they have been widely in demand from collectors for this reason (2). The demand for this species for the commercial cactus trade is a significant threat to its survival together with the development of the land for agriculture. Large areas of land have been converted for citrus plants or irrigated for cereal crops, and non-developed areas are often occupied by goats, which graze and trample on this species (2).

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Cactus conservation

Ariocarpus trigonus is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans international trade in this unusual cactus based on wild plants (3). The Valley of Jaumave is home to many unusual and rare species of plants and animals and it has been suggested as an excellent candidate for a nature reserve (2).

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Authentication

Authenticated (20/3/03) by Dr Nigel Taylor, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

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Glossary

Areoles
In cacti, the felted or woolly, cushion-like structures from which spines grow, flowers develop and new stems arise.
Tubercules
In cacti, a small wart-like or angular swelling upon the stem.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Anderson, E.F., Arias Montes, S. & Taylor, N.P. (1994) Threatened Cacti of Mexico. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  3. CITES (February, 2003)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Hewitt, T. (1993) The Complete Book of Cacti and Succulents. Dorling Kindersley, London.
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Image credit

Mature Ariocarpus trigonus in limestone  
Mature Ariocarpus trigonus in limestone

© Nigel P. Taylor / Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond
Surrey
TW9 3AB
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 332 5000
Fax: +44 (0) 208 332 5197
info@kew.org
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

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