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Flowers of Pereskia diaz-romeroana are small but striking. Without any encouragement, these plants will bloom often, not with masses of flowers, but with a few every

couple of weeks. And they almost invariably produce small black fruits about the size of a blueberry, each containing a few seeds that will grow if given a little care.

This stand of Neoraimondia

(Neocardenasia) herzogiana near Mataral,

Bolivia, highlights an important feature:

unlike other neoraimondias, plants of

N. herzogiana have a trunk. They do not

branch from the base but from several feet

above ground. There was a little burro

with us, and anything without spines

would not have lasted long.

This close-up of an elongate areole of Neoraimondia herzogiana shows the long, stout spines that were produced in the first

year at the bottom of the areole. In subsequent years, the areole produces flowers, hairs, and bristlelike spines that are not

strong. The little bits of areole stem produced each year finally build up until the areole becomes this prominent and no

longer level with the stem surface.

Rebutias are high altitude plants. They like cool temperatures where the ground stays moist,

but because there is so much rain and mist, they are confined to small rock outcrops where the drainage is slightly better. These plants of Rebutia donaldiana

are growing among mosses and lichens.

This is a very healthy plant of Pfeiffera ianthothele hanging from a tree it shares with a bromeliad. With pendent stems, the plant’s roots are above the branches and water

is conducted downward. Epiphytic plants do not need to hold themselves up and so do not need to produce very much wood; it is surprising that more plants

have not become epiphytic. These individuals of
P. ianthothele, if propped up by being tied to a stake, would probably grow only poorly or not at all.

Fruits of Pfeiffera ianthothele are berries, meaning that all parts are juicy and without a rind or pit. The fruit has areoles with spines, and the fruit wall is so thin

that vascular bundles are visible as a network of fine lines, a distinctive feature.

Plants of Espostoa (Vatricania) guentheri are tall and have as many as fifteen branches.

Each branch grows to be about 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 m) long before beginning to produce the long, roan1-colored spines of their lateral cephalium.

Notice the abundance of green vegetation in the background;

the area is dry and hot at times, but wet enough to support leafy trees and shrubs.

1  roan - (used of especially horses) having a brownish coat thickly sprinkled with white or grey; "a roan horse". (

This is the rainforest near Puente Azero, a frost-free area with sufficient moisture to support epiphytic cacti in south central Bolivia where we found our specimen of Acanthorhipsalis monacantha. This species is abundant farther north and extends as far south

as Salta and Jujuy in Argentina. Acanthorhipsalises grow in a tangle of trees and shrubs, many of which hang over cliffs.

Plants of Acanthorhipsalis monacantha are unusual

among epiphytic cacti because they have spines.

This plant obviously had a very good reproductive season with many of its areoles

bearing ripe fruits. Plants of Acanthorhipsalis can be difficult to find because they grow

in such shady, overgrown areas among ferns and mosses, but the bright pink or red fruits

make them easier to see.

One of our traveling companions was a truck loaded with corn that needed an extra push up the hills.
R. Kiesling demonstrates the glamour of fieldwork.

This is a large colony of Gymnocalycium megatae

growing in even shadier, more moist conditions than those of G. pflanzii. The soil of this cliff

face must rapidly crumble away, but these cacti are able to germinate and grow to flowering

size before their home falls out from under them. Abundant mosses, normally good

indicators of a habitat unsuitable to cacti, least of all healthy cacti, are growing alongside these specimens of G. megatae.

In contrast to the shade-loving Gymnocalycium megatae and G. pflanzii, other gymnocalyciums

such as this G. spegazzinii love full sun. They can tolerate both exposure to intense sunlight

and water-stress all day long. In cultivation, it is safe to treat all your gymnocalyciums to more intermediate conditions.

Gymnocalyciums have beautiful flowers, and even their flower buds are wonderful.

The overlapping scales of this plant of Gymnocalycium chiquitanum here are diagnostic for the genus—few other genera have flower buds like these.

This individual of Quiabentia pflanzii is a large tree. Quiabentias grow so profusely in southeastern Bolivia that they create their

own forests. Because of their shiny leaves, a summer rainstorm makes

the entire forest a dazzling sight.

Leaves of Quiabentia pflanzii are fat and

shiny, much thicker and broader than

those of other opuntias.

Although quiabentias look like giant jade plants, their spines and glochids clearly differentiate them. In our experience, quiabentias have the most painful spines of all cacti.

Our cultivated plants have survived mild frosts in Texas and are beautiful plants, but their spines are so painful it is difficult to recommend them for home gardens.

Stems of Monvillea spegazzinii feature small patches of blue and gray.

Various clones differ in the number of patches on the stems and the intensity of the color.

Adventitious roots of Monvillea spegazzinii become greatly enlarged and carrotlike.

Water and starch that are stored underground in roots are less likely to be found and eaten by animals. Soil never becomes as hot or cold as air, and its humidity

changes more slowly, so nutrients that are stored in roots are in a safer, more uniform environment than those stored in cactus shoots.

We receive another surprise on our way back to Santa Cruz—a dual-purpose bridge.

Where there are not too many cars or trains, there is no need for two separate bridges,

provided a car is fast enough to get on and off in time.

We are extremely glad we came to this bridge before dark.


These branches of Samaipaticereus corroanus

support themselves only initially; they will soon become tangled in tree branches,

and afterward will produce very weak wood.

Weingartia neocumingii compete with terrestrial bromeliads for space.

The weingartias occur mostly in the shade of large acacia trees in a heavily forested area.

There is soil where large numbers of Gymnocalycium pflanzii grow, but the weingartias are found only on rocky areas.

Weingartias flower easily and profusely in cultivation. Individuals of Weingartia lanata

(lanata means “wool”) grow quickly and with no fuss,

yet reward you with these beautiful flowers.

The arching branches with small leaves

in the center of the photograph

belong to plants of Pereskia diaz-romeroana

growing near Saipina, Bolivia.

Even though it has virtually no

water-storing succulent tissue, it survives

droughts by letting its leaves fall when

there is not enough water. Because it

blooms quickly, it is the ideal pereskia

for newcomers to the species.

A Cactus Odyssey


Rain, Desert, and more Rain.

Our destination is the region of dry valleys in the mountains of central Bolivia…

Flowers of Roseocereus tephracantha are large and have a long, thick tube, and long, white petals.
A plant can be covered in hundreds of flowers at one time, which must look wonderful.

These ripe, red fruits of Roseocereus tephracantha

will open when a hole along one side of the fruit

is formed, thus allowing birds and ants to remove the sweet, white pulp

from the black seeds.

Visit the Lowlands

All photos and comments on this page are from A Cactus Odyssey, Mauseth, J., Kiesling, R., Ostolaza, C.,
Timber Press, USA, 2002.

copyright © James D. Mauseth, Roberto Kiesling, and Carlos Ostolaza