Third of Cacti Face Extinction

The collected data indicates that more than 31% cactus species are now facing extinction because of the pressure coming from man-made and industrial activities. Data reveals that the illegal trade of plants and seeds affected 47 percent of threatened species.


“The dimensions of the unlawful wildlife commerce – together with commerce in crops – is way higher than we beforehand thought”, stated Inger Andersen, IUCN director common.

Illegal trade contributes to placing cacti like Melocactus glaucescens among the world’s most endangered species. Agriculture is the most widespread of them which is affecting cacti species in large parts of northern Mexico, Mesoamerica and the southern South America. Cacti prove vital water and food sources for multiple species across the dry planes, due their exquisite abilities to harvest it and ways of preserving it. The spines defend the plant against animals from potentially harming it, but they can be easily bypassed by humans.

“The outcomes of this evaluation come as a shock to us”, lead researcher Barbara Goettsch, co-chair of the IUCN’s Cactus and Succulent Plant Specialist Group, mentioned in an announcement.

An illegal trade in wild cacti is threatening more than 30 per cent of all species of the spiky desert plants with extinction.

Conservationists say cacti are also widely used food and for medicine, with their fruit and highly nutritious stems important for rural communities. “With the current human population growth, these plants can not sustain such high levels of collection and habitat loss”.

Though the harvest of certain plants has been prohibited by an global convention, Goettsch said that many are however prized by collectors.

Some, like the once-ubiquitous Echinopsis pampana, have seen population drops of at least 50% in Peru, due to plunder for the ornamental plant trade. As BBC reports, “although cacti are a familiar sight in other regions, such as Europe and Australia, these plants have been introduced to these landscapes either intentionally or accidentally”.

Several species of cacti are highly desired by collectors for their attractive flowers. As a result, the cactus species has been declared endangered.

Moreover, home owners can also help spread the rare species of cacti by planting them in their own gardens.

Turbinicarpus subterraneus has been labeled as an endangered species because it can only be found in specific areas.

She said that now they have got a complete clear picture.


Cacti in coastal areas of Mexico and the Caribbean, are mainly disturbed by residential and commercial development. Arrojadoa marylaniae, also listed as Critically Endangered, may go extinct in the near future, as the single white quartz rock on which it is exclusively found is threatened by mining. It is then that their role as main water provider for the fauna in their habitat is most crucial. It occurs in Argentina and Bolivia. The plants can be as small as one centimetre in diameter and grow above 19 metres in height. In Arizona, where its blossom is the official state flower, Saguaros form forests.

Prickly problem time as illegal cacti traders theaten arid ecosystems