"Little Plum"


Lewisia longipetala is a native.

I wonder what Cal Flora says about it?

Communities: Subalpine Forest, Alpine Fell-fields

Lewisia longipetala, a dicot, is a perennial herb that is native to California and is endemic (limited) to California alone.

Observations by County: Click county name to view observations. [Number of observations in brackets].
El Dorado [7], Nevada [6], Placer [2].

OK, so then what does the USDA say?

Lewisia longipetala (Piper) S. Clay – Truckee lewisia

Symbol: LELO2
Group: Dicot
Family: Portulacaceae
Duration: Perennial
Growth Habit: Forb/herb
Native Status: L48 N

Very interesting…

Of course, “Little Plum” is a hybrid, so who knows.

These blog posts where I farm out the tough work is pretty easy on me. I wonder what any of that info above really means. Well, let’s start with the word “Dicot.”

Dicot: Simply put, the first leaves of a flowering plant that come out of a seed are called cotyledons, and if there are 2 leaves the plant is called a dicot and if there is only one then it is a monocot.


After the Halloween Parties

Did you say you have a hangover this morning? Have you tried cactus?

Discovery Sliced Cactus, £1.29 per jar

How it works: Extracts of prickly pear cactus have been shown by one U.S. study to alleviate the symptoms of hangovers, though it’s not clear why.

Tester’s verdict: Eimear O’Hagan, 26, from Belfast, says: “Waking with a dry mouth and a sore head, I ate a few pickled cactus slices and went back to sleep.

“They were OK if you like pickled food, but had no impact on the hangover. I had acid reflux later on.”

Expert’s verdict: “Extract of cactus is rich in antioxidants that can neutralise damage caused by free radical cells. Better taken before drinking not afterwards, so the body’s defences are primed.”

Is there any science behind this prickly theory? Why thank you for asking, in fact, yes there is.

A study published in the June 28th, 2004 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who took a dietary supplement containing extracts of a species of prickly pear cactus before consuming alcohol, had reduced symptoms of alcohol hangover compared to individuals who drank but took placebo.

So there you go. You have to take it ahead of time, but it works! And it appears that an extract works better than a pickled cactus. Sorry I forgot to tell you about this yesterday before you got drunk.




Calibanus hookeri, a caudiciform member of the Agave family (Agavaceae) which we already said was maybe actually in the Lily family, but let’s not get that started all over again.

Here are the blooms. This is a male plant, as we can tell by the blooms. For some reason all our plants that we see bloom are male, and so that explains why we do not get seed.

As you can clearly see with this super slo-mo closeup, there are stamens there, composed of the little pollen-covered anthers on top of the slender filaments, but no pistils, i.e. the often quite graphic stigma in the center on top of the ovules.


Agave Blooms

From the Smithsonian Institution, Department of Botany, Plant Image Collection.<br /><br /><img width="320" hspace="5" height="480" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/cactus/rah00072.jpg" /><br /><br />Agave schidigera (Agavaceae)<br />
Photo by R.A. Howard, Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution.<br /><br />

Agave Fencerow

From the Smithsonian Institution, Department of Botany, Plant Image Collection<br /><br /><img width="432" hspace="5" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/cactus/rah01306.jpg" /><br /><br />Agave americana variegata (Agavaceae)<br />
Photo by R.A. Howard, Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution.<br /><br />

Agave Production Leads to Social Unrest

From Science Daily, we find out that your alcohol consumption has contributed to the loss of traditional living in Mexico. How do you feel about that?

(T)equila’s surge in popularity over the past 15 years has been a boon for industry, but is triggering a significant hangover of social and environmental problems in the region of Mexico where the once-notorious liquor (distilled from the blue agave plant) is produced….

more after the break…. Read More…

Aloe Leaves

So earlier this morning I mentioned it’s the time of year to take your final cactus cuts. And I thought I should also mention that it’s OK to take some succulent cuts all the way into winter.

For instance, Aeoniums. And Aloes, too!

Fun fact: Did you know that the stoma of the aloe leaf are often sunken, and surrounded by well-developed lobes?


Portion of Vertical Section of Aloe Leaf

1. Stoma                            5. Vascular Bundle
2. Cuticle                          6. Water Storage Tissue
3. Upper Epidermis     7. Palisade Tissue
4. Palisade Tissue         8. Lower Epidermis

And from Aloes: The Genus Aloe By Tom Reynolds



Also from the Smithsonian Collection

Earlier today I posted a botanical illustration from the Smithsonian Collection. Science!

And here we find an aircraft from the Smithsonian Collection.

Photo: Eric Long / Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

It goes without saying that the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has some of the neatest collection of planes in the world… Designed and built by famed aircraft modeler Frank Ehling in the 1970s, they are the smallest flying models the Museum owns.

It’s a fly-powered aircraft, indeed. Science!

(h/t the straight dope)

Andean Rituals

FIRST they make you drink the juice of the San Pedro cactus. Then they lead you towards the darkness.

This is the beginning of an article in New Scientist Magazine. It’s not online. But they want you to know that the Inka kings got you high.

I think we’ll categorize this blog post under “Science.”

Around the Plants-o-Sphere

Hort Log has quite the discovery. Photographic proof too.

This is the juvenile form of Rhaphidophora – often called a shingle plant as the leaves flatten and wrap tightly around tree trunks.

That’s crazy!

Barbados Gooseberry Cactus


Pereskia pereskia (Cactaceae)
Plate Number: 1722
Publication: The Cactaceae Vol. 1 Pl 2, Figs 1,2 and 3
Collection: M. Simon, U.S.A., New York; flowering branch, fruits.
Artist: Eaton, Mary Emily – Date unknown – watercolor

From the Catalog of Botanical Illustrations, Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution

© Smithsonian Institution

This cactus is now properly named Pereskia aculeata, P. Miller 1768. It’s from the Caribbean but can also sometimes be found in Florida. The pink flowers are fragrant and the fruit is edible. It is a climbing, semi-vining cactus with true spines and true non-succulent leaves.

Bees and Chemicals

A possible cause of Colony Collapse Disorder has been identified, and it’s Bayer.

From Salon, I’ve quoted the damning parts, but there is more than just this, so read the whole thing.

Beekeepers have singled out imidacloprid and its chemical cousin clothianidin, also produced by Bayer CropScience, as a cause of bee die-offs around the world for over a decade…. due to a disclosure in December 2007 by Bayer CropScience itself. Bayer scientists found imidacloprid in the nectar and pollen of flowering trees and shrubs at concentrations high enough to kill a honeybee in minutes….

Imidacloprid and clothianidin are chloronicotinoids, a synthetic compound that combines nicotine, a powerful toxin, with chlorine to attack an insect’s nervous system. The chemical is applied to the seed of a plant, added to soil, or sprayed on a crop and spreads to every corner of the plant’s tissue, killing the pests that feed on it….

Today the EPA’s own literature calls it “very highly toxic” to honeybees and other beneficial insects….

So is this what you’ve been using? It’s in Bayer Tree and Shrub products. Interestingly, they have a major research facility here in Berkeley just a few blocks from our home. What giant chemical company implicated in the die-off of bees do you have near your home?

Beware the Venus Fly Traps

Dionaeas doing their thing!

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is already a fascinating enough plant, but scientists have discovered something else amazing about it: It generates measurable magnetic fields as its leaves snap shut.


A newly discovered giant pitcher plant in the Philippines has given the BBC the vapours. Discovered on Mt. Victoria, it’s big enough to eat rats.


For some reason they’ve also included this photo of unidentified blue fungus. Science!


Biofuel Cell Works in Cactus

Oh yes, you read that right.


Biofuel cell inserted in a cactus and graph showing the course of electrical current as a function of illumination of the cactus (black: glucose, red: O2).

The picture is not big enough to be able to tell what species that is, but I’m guessing a cereus of some type.

With this advance, you could attach a wire to a cactus and you can power a fan  to cool yourself off in the desert. (Well, that’s my interpretation. Your mileage may vary.)



From Biologist and Photographer of biologically active subjects, Alex Wild, comes a picture of a beetle. A longhorn beetle on a cactus. An Opuntia.

You’ll have to click through to see what I’m talking about. Click away!


Botanical Illustration of Ripe Red Fruit

The Smithsonian has beautiful botanical illustrations. And it’s cactus fruit season at the nursery. We have fruit bursting out of echinocereuses, echinopsises, mammillarias, opuntias and more. That means it’s time to take a look at some botanical illustrations of cactus fruit. See, it all makes sense in the end.

copyright © Smithsonian Institution

Plate Number: 1778
Publication: The Cactaceae Vol. 2 Pl 16, Fig 3
Client: Britton, N.L. and Rose, J.N. – Size: 11×14

Acanthocereus subinermis (Cactaceae) – Collection: Rose, Mexico, between Mitla & Oaxaca City; fruiting branch.
Artist: Eaton, M.E. – Date unknown – watercolor

Botanical Illustrations


From the Smithsonian Collection of Flora of Puerto Rico.

Jatropha curcas L. det. by P. Acevedo-Rdgz.

Those large seed pods of the J. curcas are the future of bio-fuels.

The Jatropha is in the Euphorbia family, has succulent stems, and gets nicely shrubby with beautiful leaves. Most Jatrophas are known for their leaves, some for their caudexes. And all are, as members of Euphorbiaceae, poisonous.

Botanical Illustrations from the Smithsonian Collection

They have a lovely selection of cactus and other succulents.

Erythrorhipsalis pilocarpa (Cactaceae) Collection: Shafer, Brazil, Rio de Janeiro; flowering plant.
Artist: Eaton, Mary Emily – Date unknown – watercolor

© Smithsonian Institution Department of Botany
Plate Number: 1847
Publication: The Cactaceae Vol. 4 Pl 21, Fig 5
Client: Britton, N.L. and Rose, J.N. – Size: 11×14

This one came with an old name. The new name is Rhipsalis pilocarpa. Here’s a contemporary photo from rhipsalis.com. That must be a super close up illustration for it to match the photos of the plant we can find on the web, since the stems are only 1cm, and the plant is pendant, like all the other epiphytic rhipsalises.

Botanical Illustrations, Epiphyte Edition


Tillandsia linearis (Bromeliaceae) Collection: , Brazil; flowering habit.
Artist: Mee, Margaret

From the Catalog of Botanical Illustrations, Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution

Plate Number: 1370
Publication: The Bromeliads. 1969. Plate 6; “Margaret Mee”. Ed. Sylvia de Botton Brautigam et al. Rio de Janeiro: ArtePadilla 2006. Page 166

Remarks: The painting was displayed in the traveling exhibit: “Margaret Mee: Return to the Amazon” (1/16/96 – 8/20/99). The painting is matted in 30″ x 39″ matt and is on loan to Eva Pell, Under Secretary for Science, Smithsonian Institution and is in Room 325, Smithsonian Castle. Loan is through Richard Stamm, Curator, SI Castle Collections (11/19/10).

Beautiful painting! Click the image to embiggen, or click through to the link for more Tillandsia illustrations. Most of the Smithsonian botanical images I’ve posted in the past were old, maybe 100 years or so, but not this one, this is recent. So if you are recently also illustrating botanical subjects let me know!


From the Smithsonian <a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1707&amp;entry_id=1511" title="http://ravenel.si.edu/botany/botart/showImage.cfm?myimage=images/15.JPG&mynumber=15" onmouseover="window.status=’http://ravenel.si.edu/botany/botart/showImage.cfm?myimage=images/15.JPG&mynumber=15′;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Catalog of Botanical Illustrations</a> comes this amazing plate:<br /><br /><img width="402" hspace="5" height="546" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/smithsonian15.JPG" /><br /><br />© Smithsonian Institution<br />
Plate Number: 15<br />
Publication: The Cactaceae Vol. 3 Pl 22, Fig 1,2,3 and 4<br />
Client: Britton, N.L. and Rose, J.N. – Size: 11×14<br />
<br /><a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/archives/1511-guid.html#extended">Continue reading "Cactus"</a>

Cactus Flowers! It's Spring!

The Echinocereus grandifloras are in full bloom this weekend, so you know it’s spring out here at the Cactus Jungle.


We call this one “Amber Peach”


Rikki insists this one is “Tropical Pink”


I named this one “White Lightning”

In case you were wondering, these are all hybrids. They are intergenic hybrids between Echinopsis and Echinocereus. You may see these on various websites and at certain nurseries under various and sundry names. Some call them Trichocereus Hybrids or Lobivia Hybrids or Tricho-Lobivia Hybrids, however current taxonomy puts all Trichocereus and Lobivias into Echinopsis.

You may also see in certain quarters where they insist on particular cultivar names. However we have gotten our original parent plants for these hybrids from the original hybridizer and he does not name them himself. So we are free to call them by our own cultivar names. If you have better names for them than we’ve come up with, we’re happy to take suggestions!

Cactus in Bloom

Mr. Subjunctive from Plants are the Strangest People sends along a funny.

From Iowa.

This is growing on E Washington St. in Washington, IA; the photo was taken 26 March 2012. I’ve seen it on previous trips as well, and thought of y’all, but things hadn’t worked out to take a picture of it, and we don’t actually go to Washington that often.

I think the bloom is new since the last time I saw it. Both the color (black?!) and form (more like an aroid flower than a cactus flower, really) are noteworthy. I presume, based on the bloom, that this is a Discocactus of some sort? It’s a slow grower, but I suppose that’s to be expected for any Iowa cacti.

-Mr. Subjunctive

First you need to click the picture above to get a closer look at the details. And then, here’s a Discocactus in bloom, so we can judge the similarities and determine the species.

From the Catalog of Botanical Illustrations, Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution

Plate Number: 1806
Publication: The Cactaceae Vol. 3 Pl 24, Fig 4
Client: Britton, N.L. and Rose, J.N. – Size: 11×14

Discocactus bahiensis (Cactaceae) – Type; Collection: Rose, J.N. 19783, Brazil, Bahia; flowering plant.
Artist: Eaton, Mary Emily – Date unknown – watercolor

No, definitely not a Discocactus.


Cactus in Uganda

They’ve found that cactus help keep ticks away from livestock. I’m not really sure how this works, but here’s the evidence.

Researchers at the National Agriculture Research Institute (Naro), who have been undertaking a study on effective control of ticks using botanical solutions, said the cactus shrub has spikes which put off ticks from climbing farm fences to bite animals.

No species name. It’s not even clear to me if they mean an actual cactus, or a spiny shrub that they call the cactus shrub.

Scientists found that ticks do not like the cactus because animals naturally do not go near the plants, but also due to their spikes that make their environment uncomfortable.

But the veterinarians have found that when crushed and mixed in water, spraying it on animals kills all the ticks just like conventional acaricides.

Now that is really interesting. If only it would work on aphids, too.

Cactus Leaves

It’s science day at cactus blog, and so we bring you <a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1736&amp;entry_id=1539" title="http://science.letusfindout.com/do-cacti-have-leaves/" onmouseover="window.status=’http://science.letusfindout.com/do-cacti-have-leaves/’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">to the world of science</a>!<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Q: Do cacti have leaves?<br /><br />A: In most (cactus) species, except for the sub-family of the Pereskioideae, the leaves are greatly or entirely reduced….<br />
<br />
Cacti are commonly used for fencing material where there is a lack of either natural resources or financial means to construct a permanent fence. This is often seen in arid and warm climates, such as the Masai Mara in Kenya. This is known as a cactus fence.</span><br /></div><br />

Cactus Moth

The Tampa Tribune publishes weird larva pictures.

The cactus moth larva often burrows into the cactus pad to feed on the flesh. Dripping ooze on the pad’s surface indicates a hungry caterpillar inside.

This came up in the course of a question from a reader:

Q: I found caterpillars in prickly pear in the cactus garden in the back yard. I looked them up and found pictures — they are definitely the larva of these cactus moths, Cactoblastis cactorum. What should I do to control them? Can I control them? What else will they destroy?

A:Unfortunately, this invasive insect is fairly common along Florida’s coasts. My advice to homeowners with only a limited number of cactuses under attack is to control the pest by removing the eggsticks by hand….

Click through for the rest of the answer, and a picture of the cactus moth’s eggstick.

Is this not the most exciting post of the day? No? Then you have no sense of the drama of the cactus moth’s mysterious eggstick.

Entomologists could wax lyrical for hours on the fascinating development of the Cactus Moth’s eggstick. Here, in fact, give a listen to an entomologist. Alright, so that wasn’t an actual recording of an entomologist at work, but rather the USDA’s scientific study of the Cactus Moth’s eggsticks.


Cactus on TV

Mythbusters used some of our cacti as set dressing for the episode where they tested chile pepper myths.

Here’s a short video clip that we’ll leave up until they threaten to sue.

Cactus Science in the News

It turns out there’s more than one use for cactus.

The cactus is one of the edible vegetables in Mexico and is very nutritious,” (Dr. Norma) Alcantar says. She recalls her grandmother saying how the water was used to cook the cactus was then used to clean sediment from drinking water.

At USF, Alcantar began testing the filtration properties of the gooey substance inside the cactus called mucilage. Her research found the mucilage not only filters out sediments, it removes arsenic from the water. 

The cactus mucilage is ideal because it’s natural, biodegradable, abundant and sustainable.

I never knew that. Now I do, and so do you.

California Natives???

A redacted letter from a concerned citizen:

Cactus Jungle:

You have on your list Fouquieria xxxx from California, this incorrect (sic)….. Fouquieria splendens is the only one that grows in the United States, all the others grow in Mexico and Baja. Your Fouquieria xxxx looks more like Fouquieria xxxx from Baja….. Do you have any more information on your plant? I have grown all of the known Fouquieria’s (sic) and have been in Mexico many times studying and collecting them.


Thank you for your concerns. The word “California” can refer to the current political boundaries of the state formerly governed by Arnold Schwartzenegger, or they can refer to the ecological and geological physical area (among other options). We prefer to include plants native to Baja California as part of the ecological area of California.

Thank you,

Editors Note: Science!

November 2021

US Constitution


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