Thelocactus (Thelocactus hastifer)

Thelocactus hastifer flower
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Thelocactus fact file

Thelocactus description

GenusThelocactus (1)

Thelocactus hastifer can be immediately recognised by its elongated stem, which may be erect or lie along the ground (‘decumbent’). This elongate stem is a unique character among the species of this genus, and even young seedlings can be easily distinguished from other Thelocactus species by the elongate rather than rounded growth. Individual plants have a swollen root and a thin stem, about 5.5 centimetres in diameter, which is divided into 13 to 18 ribs. In older individuals, the stem branches from the base. The main body of the plant has a very thin collar between the root and the upper part of the stem, which is unable to bear the weight of the stem, so that it eventually grows lying on the ground. The spines of this cactus are straight and needle-like, and consist of 20 to 25 ‘radial’ spines, which are white in colour and measure up to 1.5 centimetres long, and 4 to 5 ‘central’ spines, which are longer, at up to 2.6 centimetres, and whitish to black in colour (4).

Height: up to 40 cm (2)

Thelocactus biology

Thelocactus hastifer flowers from February to May, producing magenta flowers that measure 3.5 to 7.5 centimetres wide. The flowers open from midday to early afternoon and last one or two days (4) (5). The fruits, which are relatively small for the genus, mature from March to July, and the shiny black seeds are released from an opening at the base of the fruit. The reproductive rate of this cactus is considered to be low, as only 30 seeds are produced on average per plant per year (5).


Thelocactus range

Found only in few localities in the municipality of Cadereyta de Montes, Querétaro, Mexico (5).


Thelocactus habitat

This species grows on limestone hills at altitudes of 1,800 to 2,050 metres above sea level, where it is associated with desert scrub habitat (5).


Thelocactus status

Thelocactus hastifer is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Thelocactus threats

Human activities are the main factors affecting the populations of this cactus. Land conversion for agricultural purposes, grazing, and expansion of populated areas are reducing its habitat, while illegal collection can also affect population size (5).


Thelocactus conservation

Thelocactus hastifer is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which permits trade of wild plants in a controlled way to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival (3). Within Mexico, the species is also subject to special protection (Pr) on the Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059 (6). The area where Thelocactus hastifer grows is rich in rare and threatened cacti, and setting it aside as a natural reserve should be considered (2).


Find out more

To find out more about Thelocactus species see:



Information supplied and authenticated (26/06/2010) by Alessandro Mosco, PhD, Department of Life Sciences, University of Trieste.



Lying along the ground, with the extremity curving upward.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2013)
  2. Anderson, E.F., Arias Montes, S. and Taylor, N.P. (1994) Threatened Cacti of Mexico. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  3. CITES (August, 2013)
  4. Mosco, A. and Zanovello, C. (2000). A phenetic analysis of the genus Thelocactus. Bradleya, 18: 45-70.
  5. Sánchez, E.A.S., Hernández Martínez, M.M. and Chávez, R. (2006) Ficha técnica de Thelocactus hastifer. In: Sánchez, E. (Ed.) Apuntes Técnicos para el Conocimiento de la Situación de Conservación de Especies de la Familia Cactaceae en el estado de Querétaro. Jardín Botánico Regional de Cadereyta “Ing. Manual González de Cosío”, Querétaro, Mexico. Available at:
  6. Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059 (June, 2010)

Image credit

Thelocactus hastifer flower  
Thelocactus hastifer flower

© Alessandro Mosco

Alessandro Mosco


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