Cool Cacti

The world is heating up, so now is a good time to become familiar with the wonderful world of cacti! Living in the American Southwest has made me appreciate the tenacity of these amazing plants and has led me to learn more about them. I amassed a small online collection of favorite specimens that I think are pretty neat that I want to share with you now. Many of the cacti that I’ve digitally collected will never be seen with my very own eyes due to their extreme rarity, and that fact serves to make me appreciate them even more. Cacti are an integral part of the natural world, but they are not immune to global warming and habitat loss. I hope that this presentation will expose readers to the fragile beauty that cacti possess and will inspire readers to pick up a sustainably grown cactus friend for themselves. Enjoy!

Armatocereus rauhii

Armatocereus is a group of tree-like cacti from South America that reaches nearly 40 feet in height. The most distinct feature of these plants is that the stems are segmented as each year’s growth cycle creates “pinch points” on the otherwise cylindrical and ribbed stems. genus info / more info

photo by Debora mac Donald Zöllner

Astrophytum asterias

“Sand Dollar Cactus, Sea Urchin Cactus”

Native to small parts of Texas in the United States and Mexico. Previously more abundant, this species is today restricted to a single 200-acre site in Texas, where there are around 2,000 individuals, and a few small sites in Tamaulipas. It is readily propagated from seed, so most plants encountered in nurseries are seed grown. genus info / more info

Austrocylindropuntia lagopus

A threatened species of cactus that grows in the high Andes of Peru. genus info / more info

photo by Carlos Cutipa Gonzalez

Blossfeldia liliputana

It grows at 1,200–3,500 m altitude in the Andes, typically growing in rock crevices and often close to waterfalls. Loves shady places with good airflow.  genus info / more info, more info

photo by Craig Howe

Brachycereus nesioticus

“Lava Cactus”

Grows in the Galapagos Islands. Brachycereus forms clusters of stems on exposed lava flows on several of the islands where virtually nothing else grows. genus info / more info

photo by Craig Howe

Cephalocereus senilis

“Old Man Cactus”

Southern Mexico. The most striking feature is the shaggy coat of long, white hairs suggestive of unkempt hair on an old man. Endangered. It is threatened in the wild, and seed exports are banned from Mexico. genus info / more info

photo by Daiv Freeman

Copiapoa cinerea

It comes from the coastal zones of northern Chile. The area is very arid. However, there are dense fogs, due to cold streams of the Pacific Ocean. Suffers from poaching. Articles: one / two / three genus info / more info

photo by Tini and Jacob Wijpkema

Coryphantha neglecta

“Beehive Cactus”

Mexico/USA. More than many other cacti, the Coryphantha change in their appearance over their lifespan. They start small and round and grow up to look like pineapples. Flowers bloom at very top. genus info / more info

photo by Gerd Hayenga

Discocactus horstii

Discocactus is a genus of tropical cacti from Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. The name comes from the ancient Greek diskos (disc) because of its shape. These species are in the risk of extinction in the wild. genus info / more info

photo by Daiv Freeman

Disocactus flagelliformis

“Rat Tail Cactus”

From the Greek dis, meaning twice or double, which refers to the fact that both outer and inner flower segments are of the same length. This cactus is easy to cultivate, fast-growing, and does well in hanging baskets. Mainly from Mexico, Central and South America. genus info / more info

photo by Daiv Freeman

Echinocereus rigidissimus

“Arizona Rainbow Cactus”

USA/Mexico. Easy to cultivate. They have some of the most brilliant flowers of the cactus family. They range in color from electric-pink to deep scarlet to translucent browns and greens and even bright yellow. Many species feature two-toned flowers. genus info / more info

photo by Ralf Holzhe

Echinopsis oxygona

“Easter Lily Cactus”

Because of their exceptional flowers, many Echinopsis species are found in garden centers and collections world-wide.  genus info / more info

photo by Daiv Freeman

Epithelantha cryptica

“Button Cactus”

Mexico. Extremely rare. Grows in desert grasslands and woodlands. It grows on crevices, coarse gravel, cliffs. These cacti are normally found in small clusters because the seeds fall nearby. genus info / more info, more info

photo by Davide Donati

Eriosyce aurata

A very large and very spiny barrel cactus with numerous ribs. genus info / more info

photo by Suleyman

Escobaria abdita

An attractive small geophytic cactus with a swollen root and stems with short, ivory to chalk-white spines. Mexico. genus info / more info

photo by Juergen Menzel

Ferocactus fordii

Baja Calif/Mexico. A small barrel cactus that gets about 20 inches tall and 10 inches across. New spines are red and age to gray. Rose-purple flowers in spring. genus info / more info

photo by Daiv Freeman

Gymnocalycium buenekeri

“Chin Cactus”

South America. A large, globose cactus that resembles a green tomato. The majority of species in this genus consist of globose, solitary plants with ribs that are often only somewhat tuberculate. This slight punctuation along the ribs results in a “chin-like” appearance. genus info / more info

photo by Daiv Freeman

Isolatocereus dumortieri

The name means “Isolated Cereus” describing the sparse distribution of individual plants in habitat. Mexico. genus info / more info

photo by Jean-Paul Lafournere

Lophophora diffusa

“False Peyote” (Lophophora williamsii is “Real Peyote”)

Its natural habitat is semi-deserts on slopes and river beds, and under the shade of various shrubs and nurse plants. It is considered vulnerable due to a very small distribution range, small population of less than 3,000 individuals, and illegal collecting. Mexico. genus info /more info, more info

photo by Emmanuel Mejia

Pediocactus despainii

“San Rafael Cactus”

Rare. It is endemic to the state of Utah, where it is limited to the San Rafael Swell, a unique geologic feature in central Utah. There are two populations totaling about 6000 individuals. It is threatened by a number of human activities. genus info / more info

photo by Dorde Woodruff

Pelecyphora aselliformis

“Hatchet Cactus”

This species is found in grit, at over 1800 meters in altitude, and receives little water in summer and none in winter. Plants grow in the shade of bushes and don’t get direct sun at midday. Mexico. genus info / more info -check out the crazy pictures!

photo by Craig Fry

Peniocereus occidentalis

Plants in the genus Peniocereus are mostly sprawling stick-like plants from the Southwest United States and Mexico. In the wild, the plants are hardly noticed as they grow among shrubs and themselves appear to be simply dead branches. A number of the species feature large underground tubers which may reach 70 pounds or more. genus info/ more info

photo by Juergen Menzel

Rebutia albiflora

The genus Rebutia is one of the most popular in cultivation. Several species are produced on a large scale commercially and found in garden centers around the world. The plants in this genus are small, globose or flattened-globose plants that usually form a small clump. In the wild, these plants are found in the hills and mountains of Argentina and Bolivia. genus info / more info

photo by Neville Morton

Rhipsalis grandiflora

The name is derived from the Greek word rhips which means wickerwork and refers to the slender, flexible, reed-like stems. Rhipsalis are primarily epiphytic -meaning they live in trees, but some are lithophytic -that is growing in the cracks of rocks. South America. genus info / more info

photo by Daiv Freeman

Sclerocactus papyracanthus

“Paperspine Fishhook Cactus”

This plant grows in pinyon-juniper woodland and Chihuahuan Desert grassland habitat, usually amidst grama grass (Bouteloua spp.), especially blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis). It is often hard to see the cactus because its spines look like the leaves of the grass. genus info / more info

photo by Daiv Freeman

Stenocactus multicostatus

“Brain Cactus”

A low-growing cactus with a lot of narrow, very acute and straight or wavy ribs, densely pleated together, giving it a wrinkled look. genus info / more info

photo by Daiv Freeman

Stenocereus montanus

Large, tree-like, with nocturnal flowers that are pollinated by bats. Mexico. genus info / more info

photo by Jeff Hamann

Turbinicarpus pseudopectinatus

It grows at a higher altitude than true Chihuahuan Desert in grasslands with virtually no woody vegetation and in pinyon-juniper woodlands. All the sites have gravelly calcareous soils. Threatened by illegal collecting. Mexico. genus info / more info

photo by Suleyman

Thelocactus heterochromus

Thelocactus species are globe-shaped, short and cylindrical. They are small cacti that are generally solitary, but some varieties will cluster in groups. genus info / more info

photo by John Balcom


Named in 2001, the genus Yavia is one of the most recently described genera in the cactus family. It was found growing at over 12,000 feet (3700m) elevation in a harsh, dry environment with very rocky soil. Argentina. genus info / more info -check out its roots! I thought it was a carved figurine.

photo by Tini and Jacob Wijpkema

I hope you enjoyed reading this! I had way too much compiling this list. I love cacti and hope that they stay protected and live long, healthy lives in their native environment. Again, the illegal trafficking of cacti is a genuine problem and it needs to be stopped.

Here are five articles that highlight the issue and what can be done about it:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Awareness is key. With the warming of the planet, the demand for cactus collecting will increase. Please pay attention to where your cacti come from. Always talk to your nursery professional and ask them where their product was raised before you actually buy.

Thanx for reading!

Published by Krista Marson

Hi, my name is Krista, and I'm a traveling fiend. I am passionate about history, nature, art, gardening, writing, and watching movies. I created this blog to let people know I have some travel novels available to read. Enjoy!

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