Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina

As I mentioned in a previous entry, Botany Photo of the Day series in 2010 will tie in to the monthly educational themes here at UBC Botanical Garden celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity. For January, our educational theme is “Resolutions for Biodiversity”, so we’re going to be highlighting stories this week where people have resolved to conserve rare plants.

Lindsay Bourque is responsible for today’s write-up. Lindsay writes:

Thank you to Lorena Moore, aka leonfangs@Flickr, for submitting today’s photograph
(original image | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool) to launch our 2010 series on biodiversity.

The pima pineapple cactus is a small hemispherical cactus (10-18 cm in height). It is native to the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona and northern Mexico. Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina is a rather uncommon lower elevation cactus with prominently grooved, thick tubercles. Older tubercles toward the bottom of plants can differentiate to form new plants if the parent plant dies. Silky, pale yellow flowers burst into bloom in July with the onset of the monsoon season in the Sonoran Desert. The flowers are quickly followed by sweet, green fruits, which are an important food source for desert fauna.

Added to the United States Endangered Plant Species List in 1993*, threats to this taxon include loss of habitat due to urban development, off-road vehicle use, road construction, livestock grazing, and agriculture & mining. Nonnative grasses are also altering its habitat, preventing establishment of new individuals. Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge has a prescribed burn management regime to control these nonnative grass species. Illegal collecting is also a problem, despite state protection laws. Approximately only 21 populations of pima pineapple cactus remain*.

In 1998, on behalf of a coalition of 31 environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity drafted the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Encompassing nearly 6 million acres, this large-scale, regional habitat conservation plan is intended to end uncontrolled development in Pima County by establishing a process to conserve large areas of desert. It manages development and open space in southern Arizona to protect the pima pineapple cactus and 22 other endangered taxa.

*Daniel adds: This story highlights the importance of taxonomists in conservation decisions. The Flora of North America account for this taxon lumps it into Coryphantha robustispina — a broad, inclusive species that ranges from Arizona to Texas and includes some of northern Mexico. If one follows that interpretation, then one could question the endangered status. However, if one follows the interpretation of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and its contracted taxonomists (PDF), the narrower interpretation as Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina yields a threatened plant taxon (more about their analysis and reviews here: Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina).

Coryphantha robustispina

16 responses to “Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina”

  1. Dori

    The spina are plenty robusti.

  2. Island Jim


  3. Quin

    the many sources of unchecked habitat destruction seem at times to be overwhelming. how many others may be as forgone as our lovely polar bears?!! it’s only through ‘team numbers’ of concerned folks that give any hope at all for any of our endangered fellows. thanks Daniel and team……

  4. phillip

    …rare plants…rare animals…rare peoples…
    not suprising…since 99.9 percent of every thing that has ever lived on earth is now extinct…

  5. He Who Lives With Yankees


  6. Theresa


  7. elizabeth

    I want one!
    Thanks for the daily delight.

  8. Katie McIntosh

    I am a Vancouverite visiting friends in Tucson and visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum last Sunday. I was amazed by the variety of cactus growing in natural surroundings. I shall look through my numerous photos for varieties of Coryphantha.The most common cacti though must be the ‘saguaros’ which cover the hillsides around here.
    Thanks Daniel for adding another dimension to my holiday.

  9. Sam


  10. Nancy

    I wonder if Buckminster Fuller got subliminal inspiration from something like this.

  11. SoapySophia

    It’s startling to see something so, shall I say, terrifying on the bottom with something so exquisite on the top!
    Extinction is a sad fate for many of our beloved animals, people, and plants. Think about the disappearing American Mustangs, the polar bears, even the whales were close at one point from the whaling industry. I wish more people in our society would wake up to the fact that so many creatures are affected by thoughtless transportation of species, and even release of captive fish, etc. Anyone heard the stories of domestic goldfish eating native species out of house and home?
    Something must be done.
    Thank you, Daniel, for the lovely pictures and information you provide each day for us to see. A little bit of sunshine in a world of darkness!

  12. elizabeth a airhart

    thank you all this little guy needs help
    in searhing the net it would seem this
    plant is listed as an ingredient in
    “natural products” of all kind no
    doubt the harvesting would harm the tribe
    i would think with the bee population
    haveing problems the plant would have
    a hard time -the links are just fine
    even read about the garden club and schools
    fine start to an interesting year

  13. Ana in Montreal

    Regarding conservation statuses of plants, the influence of major taxonomic changes of the last years and our changing environments, it will be interesting to see how the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will update its Red list of Threatened Species… For plants they still have not covered a lot of their 1997 list.
    2009 Red List :
    1997 Red List :

  14. Sue in Bremerton

    That little stubby, sturdy looking cutie is totally awesome! I love it. Umm what does this mean: Older tubercules toward the bottom of plants can differentiate to form new plants if the parent plant dies.
    Differentiate is the word, Does it mean that new plants will come, similarly to ‘hen and chicks’?

  15. lisa

    Thank you for addressing the importance of taxonomy in conservation. There are a number of cacti that have huge numbers of species with in a genus, and within a species, huge numbers of variations. It is critical to conservation efforts for us to recognize these variations, as well as the different species of cacti that are lumped in with similar looking species: Ex. the cactus above is also incorrectly referred to as Mammillaria scheeri, (probably because it looks like it could be a Mammillaria). It gets very confusing, and is ultimately just harmful.

  16. Sharyn

    I purchased one of these from a garden center in Northern Virginia last year as a present for a friend not knowing they are endangered. If I had only known, I would have pointed this out to the store to lean on their sources to cease illegal collecting. A very difficult problem to solve to be sure.

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