Due to their extreme morphological diversity and their ability to tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, the cacti have received much interest by horticulturists since they were first brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus in the 1490s. The Indian fig, or Opuntia ficus-indica, is now widely cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region and in other places for its tasty and sweet multiseeded berries. Other species of cacti are grown for food for humans: nopales/nopalitos are young Opuntia stems, while the dragon fruit favored by southeast Asians is the berry of an epiphytic cactus, Hylocereus un-datus, originally from Central America. Perhaps the most widely grown cactus is also an epiphyte, originating from mountainous regions in south cen-
lineage ancestry; the line of evolutionary descent of an organism epiphytes plants that grow on other plants compound a substance formed from two or more elements hallucinogenic capable of inducing hallucinations
tral Brazil. The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera, or Zygocactus truncata), often sold during holiday times in winter, is a freely flowering epiphytic cactus that was selected for its showy flowers and ease of cultivation. Tens of thousands of cactus horticulturists around the world collect a wide variety of cacti as a hobby, and a number of international and national societies have been established to promote the understanding, cultivation, and conservation of cactus species. see also Deserts; Dicots; Photosynthesis, Carbon Fixation and; Defenses, Physical; Record-Holding Plants; Succulents.
Robert S. Wallace
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