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Human and Animal Uses for Cacti
A Work in Progress

 

 

Carnegiea gigantea - (Saguaro)
Fruit pulp - which is processed into jelly and wine - is part of Tohono O'odham (Papago) Indians diet. Seeds are also ground and eaten. Birds, including Gila woodpeckers and elf owls, hollow out nests inside the plant.


Echinocactus sp. - (Barrel Cacti)
The spines of this genus were fashioned into phonograph needles and fishhooks.


Echinocereus enneacanthus - (Strawberry Hedgehog)
Edible fruit tastes similar to strawberries.


Echinocereus stramineus - (Straw-colored Hedgehog)
Edible fruit tastes similar to strawberries.


Echinopsis chiloensis - (Quiska)
Chilean cactus used in the manufacture of rainsticks.


Epithelantha bokei - (Button Cactus)
Edible fruit enjoyed by birds.


Epithelantha micromeris - (Button Cactus)
Edible fruit enjoyed by birds.


Escontria chiotilla - (Jiotilla)
This Mexican native produces edible fruits known as jiotilla.


Eulychina acidia - (Copado)
Chilean cactus used in the manufacture of rainsticks.


Ferocactus hamatacanthus - (Texas Barrel Cactus)
Juicy, brown fruit is used as lemons and limes.


Ferocactus wislizenii - (Candy Barrel)
Animals eat the fruit. Inside of stems and fruits used to make cactus candy.


Hylocereus undatus - (Pitaya, Dragon Fruit, Strawberry Pear)
Bright red or pink fruit with green scales is both attractive and edible. It is eaten raw or made into wine and other drinks.


Lophocereus schottii - (Senita)
Stem processed into drugs to fight cancer and diabetes.


Lophophora williamsii - (Peyote, Mescal Buttons)
Plant contains mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug capable of inducing visions.


Myrtillocactus geometrizans - (Blue Myrtle, Whortleberry Cactus)
Blue fruit resembling a blueberry - Garambullo - is edible.


Nopalea cochenillifera - (Nopal Cactus)
Plant used as a host for the female cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus). Cochineal, a crimson dye, is processed from the body of this insect.


Opuntia acanthocarpa - (Buckhorn Cholla)
Pima Indians steamed and ate flower buds. Pack rats use fallen joints for protecting nests and for camouflage.


Opuntia bigelovii - (Teddy Bear Cholla)
Pack rats use fallen joints for protecting nests and for camouflage.


Opuntia ficus-indica - (Indian Fig)
The edible fruit of this cactus, commonly known as a tuna has a sweet taste similar to watermelon. Fruits also are processed into jams and jellies.


Opuntia leptocaulis - (Desert Christmas Cactus)
Fruit is a favorite food of birds.


Opuntia spinosior - (Cane Cholla)
Skeleton of dead plants used for making furniture.


Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum - (Hairbrush Cactus)
Indians used the bur-like fruit of this cactus as a hairbrush.


Peniocereus greggii - (Queen of the Night)
Edible root and fruit eaten by Indians. Poultice reportedly used for respiratory ills.


Pereskia aculeata - (Barbados Gooseberry)
The small, yellow fruit used in jellys and preserves. Fruit is juicy and slightly acidic.


Schlumbergera truncatus - (Christmas Cactus)
Perhaps the most commercially grown cactus. Its colorful blooms open from Thanksgiving and through the Christmas season.


Selenicereus grandiflorus - (Night-Blooming Cereus)
Stems and flowers processed into homeopathic medicine for urinary tract infections and angina. Reported to have a digitalis-like effect on the heart


Stenocereus gummosus - (Pitahaya agria)
Stems of this cactus were crushed and thrown into water by natives. Substances in the cactus act as a fish poison and stun fish. Natives using this method of fishing were all to happy to gather the abundant harvest.


Stenocereus thurberi - (Organ Pipe Cactus)
Fruit eaten by local Indians.


Trichocereus pachanoi - (San Pedro Cactus)
Plant contains mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug capable of inducing visions.


 

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