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Valentine.gr  

August 2002

Did you know that the Cardón cactus (Pachycereus pringlei) have been measured as the largest cactus in the world?

Cardon (Pachycereus pringlei)

Cardon (Pachycereus pringlei)

The cardón cactus (Pachycereus pringlei) is the world’s largest cactus. There are about 1200 species of cactus, all of them native to the Americas. Théò giant cactus dominates many of the deserts of Baja California peninsula and the coastal region of the state of Sonora in Mexico. 

Some of the largest cardones have been measured at nearly 21 meters (70 feet) high and weigh up to 25 tons. These very slow growing plants are also extremely long-lived, and many specimens live well over 300 years. “Cardo” means “thistle” in Spanish. It is said that when Hernando Cortés attempted to establish a settlement in Baja in 1535, the many spiny cacti earned it the name “Isla de Cardón”, because at the time, they believed the peninsula was an island.

The Sonora Desert in Baja can be divided into distinct sub-regions. The cardón has adapted to all of these sub-regions. In many of these areas, the cardón is the predominant plant, and may be found growing in large tracts of forest.
Mature cardons can either be found in mixed communities with other large plants such as boojum trees, or can form cardon "forests"  that dominate the landscape.These large stands of the tall columnar cacti are called “cardonales”.      

The trunk and main branches of cardon have from 11 to 17 vertical ribs. On young plants the spines can be very conspicuous, but they are lost with age and are not replaced. The lower parts of older plants develop a "corky", cracked, woody base as the outer succulent tissues begin to decay. Eventually, the plants die and their internal woody "skeleton" is then evident - a complete cylinder of woody tissue at the base, and vertical woody ribs running up the length of the stem.

Woody vertical ribs allow the columnar cactus to expand and contract like an accordion, storing the water it needs to survive in the arid conditions. These cacti have developed extensive, shallow root systems which quickly capture the brief, but torrential rains of the region. A large cardón may store over a ton of water in the fleshy, pulp-like tissues of its trunk. In order to support this great weight, the large cactus has an interior framework of hardwood vertical rods, lightweight, yet extremely strong, which act to stiffen the ribs. This amazingly tough hardwood skeleton has allowed the cardón to become the largest cactus species, able to thrive in the very harsh climate of the Sonora desert of Baja California.

From March through June, cardons produce a large number of flower buds on the ribs at the tips of the older branches. The buds give rise to a succession of large blooms, each of which remains open for only about 24 hours, but the period of flowering can last for 3-4 weeks because the buds mature at different times.Flowers open in the afternoon, stay open all night, then close about mid-morning the next day. The reason for this, is that the cardón, like most of the other columnar cacti of the southwestern corner of North America, depends on nightly visits from nectar feeding bats for pollination. The flowers are visited by bats at night and by bees during daytime.

Source:

http://helios.bto.ed.ac.uk/bto/desertecology/cardon.htm
http://www.loscabosrestaurantguide.com/cardon%20cactus.htm

 

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Water Banana - Typhonodorum lindleyanum
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Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
Borojo - Alibertia patinoi - Borojoa patinoi
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Mistletoe - Viscum album
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