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Cactaceae Juss. (1789)
Indian Fig - Opuntia ficus-indica.jpg
Opuntia ficus-indica
Order Caryophyllales
ca. 100
ca. 1500 species
Distribution: endemic to America,
except Rhipsalis



The family name is based on Cactus L. (1753), which is now a nomen rejiciendum, in favor of Mammillaria Haw. (1812), nomen conservandum.



  • ornamental. Most species are grown for their ornamental value or by collectionists. A great many hybrids have been created.
  • fruit. Many species have edible fruits or seeds, used locally. The generic name pitahaya has been applied to fruits of Cereus and related genera : Acanthocereus, Hylocereus, Lemaireocereus and Selenicereus. Pereskia aculeata Mill. gives round fruits used as gooseberry, hence its name Barbados gooseberry. Cereus peruvianus Britton & Rose is a columnar cactus the oblong fruits of which are exported from Israel, under the trademark Koubo.
  • vegetable. Opuntia stems (nopal) are eaten in Mexico.
  • animal feed. The stems of several species are eaten by cattle. Opuntia spp. et Nopalea cochenillifera (L.) Salm-Dyck are cultivated to feed a scale insect, cochinilla, from which a red dye is extracted.
  • hedge plants. Many cactuses make defensive hedges, particularly Opuntia.
  • hallucinogenic. Peyote, Lophophora williamsii (Lem. ex Salm-Dyck) J. M. Coult.


  • Britton N.L. & Rose J.N., 1919-1923. The Cactaceae. descriptions and illustrations of plants of the cactus family. Washington, Carnegie Institution (Publ. 248). Volume I, 1919, 236 p. Volume II, 1920, 239 p. Volume III, 1922, 255 p. Volume IV, 1923, 318 p. download
    • Volume I: Pereskiopsis, Pterocactus, Nopalea, Tacinga, Maihuenia, Opuntia.
    • Volume II: Monvillea, Cephalocereus, Espostoa, Browningia, Stetsonia, Escontria, Corryocactus, Pachycereus, Leptocereus, Eulychnia, Lemaireocereus, Erdisia, Bergerocactus, Leocereus, Wilcoxia, Peniocereus, Dendrocereus, Machaerocereus, Nyctocereus, Brachycereus, Acanthocereus, Heliocereus, Trichocereus, Jasminocereus, Harrisia, Borzicactus, Carnegiea, Binghamia, Rathbunia, Arrojadoa, Oreocereus, Facheiroa, Cleistocactus, Zehntnerella, Lophocereus, Myrtillocactus, Neoraimondia, Hylocereus, Wilmattea, Selenicereus, Mediocactus, Deamia, Weberocereus, Werckleocereus, Aporocactus, Strophocactus.
    • Volume III: Echinocereus, Austrocactus, Rebutia, Chamaecereus, Lobivia, Echinopsis, Denmoza, Ariocarpus, Lophophora, Copiapoa, Pediocactus, Toumeya, Epithelantha, Neoporteria, Arequipa, Oroya, Matucana, Hamatocactus, Strombocactus, Leuchtenbergia, Echinofossulocactus, Ferocactus, Echinomastus, Gymnocalycium, Echinocactus, Homalocephala, Astrophytum, Eriosyce, Malacocarpus, Hickenia, Frailea, Mila, Sclerocactus, Utahia, Discocactus, Cactus.
    • Volume IV: Ancistrocactus, Thelocactus, Neolloydia, Mamillopsis, Cochemiea, Coryphantha, Neobesseya, Escobaria, Bartschella, Pelecyphora, Phellosperma, Dolichothele, Solisia, Neomammillaria, Zygocactus, Epiphyllanthus, Schlumbergera, Epiphyllum, Disocactus, Chiapasia, Eccremocactus, Nopalxochia, Wittia, Erythrorhipsalis, Rhipsalidopsis, Pfeiffera, Acanthorhipsalis, Pseudorhipsalis, Lepismium, Hatiora, Rhipsalis.


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