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Etymology of Cacti Genera
Etymology Dictionary of Epithets of Cactus & Succulent Genera
This etymology of Cacti Genera was put together by CactiGuide.com forum moderator, John Chippindale of Leeds England.


In biology the binomial nomenclature is a standard convention that identifies each species by a scientific name of two words, Latin in form and usually derived from Greek or Latin roots. The scientific name of a species is formed by the combination of two terms. The first name (capitalized) is the genus of (in this case) the plant, the second (not capitalized) is the plant species.

The genus is a grouping of similar, closely related and morphologically similar species. Similarly, genera are grouped into families, families into orders, orders into classes, and classes into phyla or divisions.
Acanthocalycium Refers to the characteristic flower tube of the genus.
akantha
 . From the
Greek
  meaning a prickle or thorn and
kalyx
  meaning calyx. (For example: Acanthocalycium glaucum).
Acanthocereus The generic name comes from the
Greek
  akantha, meaning thorn, which describes the very spiny formation along the stems and branches. (For example: Acanthocereus tetragonus).
Acanthorhipsalis The generic name from the
Greek
 
akantha
 , meaning a thorn, refers to the spiny stems, which distinguish this genus from its close relative Rhipsalis. (For example: Acanthorhipsalis monacantha).
Agave
Agave
 . The word means noble. (For example: Agave americana).
Ancistrocactus From the
Greek
  words
ancistron
 , meaning fishhook and
kaktos
 , meaning thistle. (For example: Ancistrocactus scheeri).
Aporocactus
Aporos
 . From the
Greek
 , meaning tangled. (For example: Aporocactus flagelliformis).
Argyroderma The name comes from the
Greek
  words,
argyros
 , meaning silver, and
derma
 , meaning skin. (For example: Argyroderma theartii).
Ariocarpus The generic name "Ariocarpus" is derived from the
Greek
  Aria meaning "Sorb" (Sorbus aria Rosaceae - is the white-beam tree) and the
Greek
  word karpos meaning "fruit"
( The Genus name implies: "fruit similar in appearance to that of the white-beam")
(For example Ariocarpus scapharostrus)
Armatocereus The name is derived from the
Latin
 
Armatus
 , meaning armed and probably refers to the spiny character of the stems. (For example Armatocereus laetus).
Arrojadoa Named in honour of
Dr. Miguel Arrojado Lisboa
 , superintendent of the Brazilian Railways at the time that Britton and Rose described the genus in 1922. For example: Arrojadoa bahiensis).
Astrophytum The generic name "Astrophytum" derives from the
Greek
  words astron, meaning a "star" and "phyton", meaning plant. ( The Genus name implies: "star plant"). (For example: Astrophytum asterias)
Austrocactus The generic name is from the
Latin
 
Australis
 , meaning southern. (For example: Austrocactus spiniflorum)
Austrocephalocereus The name from the
Latin
 
Australis
  meaning southern, and the
Greek
 
Kephale
 , meaning head, describes the attractive cephalium which forms on the upper side of mature stems. (For example: Austrocephalocereus dybowskii)
Aztekium This unusual genus was named by F. Boedeker in 1929 because the colour of the rock-like body and the lateral very distinctive ribs are said to be reminiscent of original designs in the sculptures of the early
Aztek Indians
 . ( For example: Aztekium hintonii).
Bergerocactus A monotypic genus raised by Britton and Rose in 1909 to honour
Alwin Berger
 , for many years the curator at the garden of Sir Thomas Hanbury at La Mortola in Italy and an authority on Cactaceae. (For example: Bergerocactus emoryi).
Blossfeldia The genus was named in honour of the discoverer of the first species, Blossfeldia liliputana,
Harry Blossfeld Jr
  Whose expeditions in Brazil and other South American countries have resulted in many finds of horticultural interest. (For example: Blossfeldia liliputana).
Borzicactus For
Antonio Borzi
 , an Italian botanist. (For example: Borzicactus p
Latin
 ospinus).
Brachycereus The genus takes its name from the
Greek
 
brachys
 , meaning short, which refers to the plants fairly low-growing stature. (For example: Brachycereus nesioticus).
Brachystelma
Brachys
 , From the
Greek
  meaning short.
stelma
  meaning column. (For example: Brachystelma barberiae).
Brasilocactus The genus "Brasilocactus" derives from the state of Brazil the land of origin of this plant and the word cactus ( an old genus name)
(The specific name implies "Cactus coming from Brazil. ")
Brasilparodia
Parodia
  coming from Brazil.
Browningia The genus was named in honour of the American botanist
W. E. Browning.
 
Buiningia A small genus named in honour of the Dutch botanist,
A. F. H. Buining.
 
Calymmanthium The genus name comes from the
Greek
 
kalumma
 , meaning veiled and
anthos
 , meaning flower.
Carnegia For
Andrew Carnegie
 , an American industrialist.
Carpobrotus The name comes from the
Greek
  words
karpos
 , meaning fruit, and
brota
 , meaning edible.
Cephalocereus From the
Greek
  word
kephale
 , meaning head and the
Latin
  word
cereus
 , meaning a wax taper (candle).
Cereus From the
Latin
  word
cereus
 , meaning a wax taper (candle).
Cintia The genus "Cintia" is named after the town of Cinti near Otavi, Potosi in Bolivia. land of origin of this plant. (For example: Cintia knizei)
Cleistocactus
Cleistos
 . From the
Greek
 , meaning closed. As in the genus Cleistocactus whose flowers seldom fully open.
Coleocephalocereus The generic name is from the
Greek
 
koleos
 , sheath, and
kephale
  head, a reference to
Conophytum The name of this genus is derived from the
Greek
  words
konus
 , meaning cone, and
phyton
 , meaning plant.
Copiapoa Named after the town of
Copiapoa
 , in chile.
Corryocactus The genus was named after a Peruvian engineer,
T. A. Corry
 , who aided early-day plant explorers with their expeditions.
Coryphantha From the
Greek
 .
koryphe
  meaning crown.
anthos
  meaning flower.
Cryptocereus From the
Greek
  word
kryptos
 , meaning hidden and the
Latin
  word
cereus
 , meaning a wax taper (candle).
Didymaotus The name is derived from the
Greek
  words
didymos
 , meaning double, and
otus
 , meaning flower.
Disocactus From the
Greek
 
dis
 , meaning twice or double, which refers to the fact that both outer and inner flower segments are of the same length..
Dolichothele From the
Greek
  words
dolikos
 , meaning long and
thele
 , meaning nipple.
Dorstenia The genus is named after the German botanist
Theodor Dorster
 , who was born in the late fifteenth century.
Dracaena The name means
female dragon
 .
Echinocactus From the
Greek
  words
echinos
 , meaning hedgehog and
kaktos
 , meaning thistle.
Echinocereus The generic name "Echinocereus" derives from the
Greek
  word
Echinos
  meaning "porcupine or hedgehog", "sea urchin" referring to the spines that cover the plant,. and the
Latin
  word
  meaning "large wax candle" (the name of a columnar cactus Genus)
( The genus name implies: "spiny cereus").
(For example: Echinocereus pentalophus).
Echinofossulocactus From the
Greek
  word
echino
 , meaning hedgehog, the
Latin
  word
fossula
 , meaning small hollow, and the
Greek
  word
kaktos
 , meaning thistle.
Echinopsis The generic name comes from the
Greek
 ,
echinos
 , meaning hedgehog and
opsis
 , referring to appearance.
Edithcolea The genus is named after
Miss Edith Cole
 , who discovered it growing in rocky places in Somaliland in 1895.
Encephalocereus The name comes from three
Greek
  words,
en
 , meaning in,
kephale
 , which signifies head and
karpos
 , meaning fruit and probably referring to the fruit that, like the flowers are produced in the crown or head of the plant.
Epiphyllum The name is derived from the
Greek
 
epi
 , meaning on, and
phyllon
 , a leaf, because early botanists considered that the flower came from the leaf.
Epithelantha The generic name "Epithelantha" derives from the
Greek
  word
Epi
  meaning "upon, on, at, over"; the
Greek
  word
thele
  meaning "nipple" referring to the tubercles, and
anthos
  meaning "flower".
(The genus name implies: "flowers upon the tubercles").
(For example: Epithelantha bockei).
Eriocactus From the
Greek
  words
erion
 , meaning wool, and
kaktos
 , meaning thistle.
Eriocereus The name is from the
Greek
 
erion
 , meaning wool, and would seem to refer to the woolly tube of the flowers.
Eriosyce The name is derived from the
Greek
 
erion
 , meaning wool and
sykon
 meaning fig, referring to the woolly fruits.
Erythrorhipsalis The generic name is from the
Greek
 
erythros
 , which refers to the fruits, which are ultimately red.
Escobaria Named after the Mexican naturalist
Romulo Numa Escobar.
 
Espostoa For
Nicolas Esposto
 , a Peruvian botanist.
Eulychnia From the
Greek
 .
eu
  meaning good.
lychnia
  meaning candelabrum
Facheiroa The generic name is taken from a
Brazilian
  word for cacti,
Facheiro.
 
Ferocactus From the
Latin
  word
ferox
 , meaning fierce and the
Greek
  word
kaktos
 , meaning thistle
Frailea Named after the Spaniard
Manuel Fraile
 who looked after the cacti collection of the US Department of Agriculture at the time Britton and Rose were preparing their book.
(For example: Frailea castanea)
Frerea The plant is named in honour of
Edward Frere
 , a prominent scientific researcher in India.
Geohintonia The genus "Geohintonia" is named in honour of its discoverer Georges Hinton
(For example: Geohintonia mexicana)
Gibbaeum The name of the genus comes from the
Latin
  word
gibba
 , meaning hump or swelling and refers to the shape of the leaf.
Gymnocactus From the
Greek
  words
gymnos
 , meaning naked and
kalyx
 , meaning bud.
Gymnocalycium From the
Greek
  words
gymnos
 , meaning naked and
kalyx
 , meaning bud.
Haageocereus Named in honour of
Walther Haage
 , a German authority on cacti.
Hamatocactus From the
Latin
  word
hamatus
 , meaning hooked and the
Greek
  word
kaktos
 , meaning thistle.
Harrisia The generic name honours the Jamaican botanist,
James Harris.v
Hatiora Previously known as
Hariota
 . The present name is a near anagram of the previous name which honoured a 16th century botanist,
Thomas Hariot
 .
Haworthia The genus "Haworthia" is named after the British botanist
Adrian Hardy Haworth
  (17671833)
(For example: Haworthia magnifica var splendens)
Heliocereus The name is from the
Greek
 , meaning sun cactus.
Homalocephela From the
Greek
  words
homalo
 , meaning even and
kephale
 , meaning head.
Huernia The genus "Huernia" is named after the missionary Justus Heurnius (note the spelling of the genus name is wrong!) who introduced the firsts stapeliads in Europe in the XVII century.
Hylocereus
Hylos
  is the
Greek
  for Forest
Jasminocereus The name describes the fragrance of the nocturnal flowers which resemble that of Jasmine.
Lampranthus The name of this genus comes from the
Greek
  words
lampros
 , meaning bright or brilliant, and
anthos
 , meaning flower.
Larryleachia The genus "Larryleachia" is named after Leslie (Larry) C. Leach (1909 - 96), an English born, self taught botanist in Zimbabwe and South Africa who specialised in the succulent Asclepiads and Euphorbias. (For example: Larryleachia cactiformis )
Lemaireocereus For
Charles Lemaire
 , a French cactus specialist.
Leocereus The name recognises a former Director of Rio de Janeiro Botanic gardens,
Pacheco Leo
 .
Lepismium The generic name is taken from the
Greek
 
lepis
 , meaning a scale, and refers to the small scales set beneath the areole.
Leptocereus The name is derived from the
Greek
 
leptos
 , meaning thin, and applies in particular to the slender branches and stems.
Leuchtenbergia Named in honour of
Eugene de Bauharnais
 , the Duke of Leuchtenberg and prince of Eichstadt (1781-1824), a stepson of Napoleon I.
Lithops Comes from the
Greek
 
lithos
 , meaning stone, and
opis
 , meaning appearance.
Lobivia An anagram of
Bolivia
 
Lodia Named after
Prof. Giuseppe Lodi
 , by Alessandro Mosco and Carlo Zanovello.
Lophocereus The name is from the
Greek
 
lophos
 , meaning crest and obviously refers to the long bristly spines, especially those towards to the tips of the stems.
Lophophora The name is from the
Greek
 
lophos
 , meaning crest and
phorein
  to carry, it seemingly refers to the tufts of hairs borne on the areoles
Maihuenia Name derived from the native "Maihuen" the Mapuche word for woman.
Malacocarpus Having soft fruits.
Mammillaria From the
Latin
  word
mammilla
 , meaning nipple or teat.
Matucana Named after the small Peruvian town 50 miles east of Lima, where they grow at 6,000-13,000 feet
Melocactus A shortened form of the original name
Echinomelocactus
 .
Mila The generic name is an anagram of
Lima,
  the capital city of Peru, near which the original species were discovered.
Monvillea The generic name honours
M. Manville
  a French authority on cacti.
Myrtillocactus The name refers to the fruits which resemble those of the bilberry
(Vaccinium myrtillus)
 .
Neolloydia For
Francis Ernest Lloyd
 , an American botanist.
Neontocactus The "new" Notocacti.
Neoporteria For
Carlos Porter
 , a Chilean entomologist.
Neoraimondia The name acknowledges the work of
Antonio Raimondi
 , the Peruvian geographer.
Neowerdermannia The name of the genus honours the German botanist
Erich Werdermann.
 
Nopalxochia The genus name is probably derived from the Aztek name
nopal
 , referring to the flowers, which are similar to those of the Opuntia species.
Normanbokea Named after
Norman Boke
 .
Notocactus The genus "Notocactus" derives from the
Greek
  words notos meaning "south" indicating that the plants of this genus are from of the South (America) and the word cactus ( an old genus name)
(The genus name implies: "cactus of the south").
Nyctocereus The generic name is from the
Latin
 
nyct
 , meaning the night and refers to the nocturnal flowering of the species.
Obregonia denegrii This commemorates two Mexican politicians
Alvaro Obregon
  and
Senor Denegri
 , respectively President and Minister of Agriculture at the time the plants were discovered in 1923 by Alfred Frec.
Opuntia The generic name "Opuntia" refers to a
Greek
  name used by Pliny for a diverse plant which grew in the region of the town of Opus in Greece
(For example: Opuntia basilaris var. caudata).
Orbea The generic name "Orbea" derives from the
Latin
  word orbis meaning "circle, disc", referring to the thickened corolla part - the annulus -surrounding the flower centre.
(The genus name implies: "circle"). (For example: Orbea variegata).
Oreocereus From the
Greek
  word
oros
 , meaning mountain and the
Latin
  word
cereus
 , meaning a wax taper (candle).
Oroya For
La Oroya
 , a mining town inf Peru.
Pachycereus From the
Greek
  word
pachys
 , meaning thick and the
Latin
  word
cereus
 , meaning a wax taper (candle).
Pachypodium The
Greek
  word
pachys
 , meaning thick, refers to the base
(podium)
  of the succulent stems.
Parodia The genus is named after the Argentinian botanist
Dr. Lorenzo Raimundo Parodi
  (1895-1966).
Pediocactus From the
Greek
  words "Pedion" meaning "plain/level" referring to the general habitat of the plant on the Great Plains, and the word "cactus" ( an old genus name) (The genus name implies: "cactus of the plains"). (For example: Pediocactus despainii).
Pelecyphora Derived from the
Greek
 
pelekys
  meaning axe and
phoros
  meaning bearing and reflects the appearance of the plant.
Peniocereus The name is derived from the
Latin
  word
penio
 , meaning tail.
Pereskia For
Nicholas Claude Fabre de Peiresc
 , a French naturalist.
Pereskiopsis The ending
iopsis
  is the generic name meaning like. This indicates the similarity of plants to Pereskia
Pfeiffera The name acknowledge
Dr. Ludwig Pfeiffer
 , a German physician and botanist.
Phyllocactus The generic name is of
Greek
  origin and means leafy cactus. (For example: Phyllocactus hybridus).
Pilosocereus The name is derived for the
Latin
  word
pilosus
 , meaning hairy and refers to the pseudocephalium.
Pseudolithos From the
Greek
  words "pseudo" meaning false and "lithos" meaning stone, pebble referring to the appearance of the stems. (The genus name implies: "false stone"). (For example: Pseudolithos migiurtinus).
Pterocactus The generic name is from the
Greek
 
pteron
 , meaning wing, and refers to the winged seeds.
Pterocereus The generic name is from the
Greek
 
pteron
 , meaning wing and describes the wing-like ribs which are considered sufficiently characteristic to segregate these species from genera of other columnar cacti.
Puna The generic name "Puna" derives from the indigenous word "Puna" that indicate the western region up to 4500 m that extends from the Peru, going throughout Bolivia to the Argentinean North. Delimited at west by a costal chain of high volcanic picks and by the Cordillera mountainous chain to the east. The Argentinean Puna is the natural continuation of the Bolivian highland.
(For example: Puna bonnieae).
Quiabentia The plant is from Bahia, Brazil, where its native name is
Quiabento
 .
Rapicactus From the
Latin
  word for "turnip", referring to the shape of the root.
Rathbunia The generic name commemorates
Richard Rathbun
 , the American naturalist.
Rebutia Named after the French nurseryman
Pierre Rebut
 .
Rhipsalis From the
Greek
  meaning wickerwork.
Rhodocactus The generic name is from the
Greek
 
rhodon
 , referring to the rose-like flowers that adorn all species of the genus.
Samaipaticereus The generic name comes from the Bolivian township of
Samaipata
 .
Schlumbergera For
Frederick Schlumberger
 , a cactus collector.
Sclerocactus The generic name "Sclerocactus" derives from the
Greek
  word
sclero
  meaning "hard ", "cruel" referring to the hard seed tegument or to the formidable spines, and the word cactus (an old genus name). ( The genus name implies: "hard cactus"). (For example: Sclerocactus glaucus).
Selenicereus Derived from the
Greek
  meaning Moon Cereus. This indicates the nocturnal flowering habit.
Setiechinopsis The generic name is from the
Latin
 
seta
 , meaning bristle, and refers to the very long floral tube, which has bristle-like scales.
Stapelia The genus "Stapelia" was named in honour of Johannes van Stapel, who published drawings and descriptions of the first Stapeliae discovered (Orbea variegata). For example: Stapelia flavopurpurea
Stenocactus From the
Greek
  words
stenos
 , meaning narrow, and
kaktos
 , meaning thistle.
Stenocereus From the
Greek
  word
stenos
 , meaning narrow and the
Latin
  word
cereus
 , meaning a wax taper (candle).
Stephanocereus The name comes from the
Greek
 
stephanos
 , meaning crown or corona, a feature of considerable prominence when the plants reach maturity.
Stetsonia For
Francis Lynde Stetson
  of New York.
Strombocactus The generic name "Strombocactus" derives from the
Greek
  word
strombos
  meaning ""fir cone, spinning top" referring to the shape of the plants, and the word cactus (an old genus name)
( The genus name implies: "fire-cone cactus ").
(For example: Strombocactus disciformis).
Strophocactus The name comes from the
Greek
 
strophos
 , meaning turning and refers to the twisting and climbing habit of the plant.
Sulcorebutia The generic name is from the
Greek
 
sulcus
 , meaning furrow and refers to the furrows or grooves that occur between the somewhat Tuberculate ribs.
Tacinga The name is a near anagram of
Caatinga
 , the habitat scrub country of northern Brazil
Tephrocactus The genus name "Tephrocactus" derives from the
Greek
  adjective
tephros
  meaning "ash coloured" plus the connective vowel "o" used in botanical
Latin
  for
Greek
  words , and the word "cactus" (an old genus name).(The genus name implies: "ash coloured cactus").
(For example: Tephrocactus geometricus )
Thelocactus
Thelo
  is the
Greek
  word for nipple, which refers to the tubercles common in this Genus.
Toumeya Named after
Dean James W. Toumey
 , by N.L. Britton and J.N. Rose.
Trichocaulon The generic name "Trichocaulon" derives from the
Greek
  word thrix meaning ""hair, wool, bristle", and the word caulos meaning "stem of a plant"
( The genus name implies: "hairy stem ").
Trichocereus The generic name is from the
Greek
 
thrix
 , meaning hair or thread, and refers to the hairy flower areoles.
Turbinicarpus The name is derived from the
Latin
 
turbineus
 , meaning shaped like a spinning top, and the
Greek
 
karpos
 , which refers to the fruit.
Uebelmannia Named after
Werner Uebelmann
 , the Swiss nurseryman who imported them into Europe.
Weberbauercereus Genus named after German botanist
August Weber Bauer
 (1871-1948).
Weberocereus Named after the Frenchman
Dr. Albert Weber
  (1830-1903).
Weingartia The name pays tribute to
Wilhelm Weingart
 , the German cactus authority.
Wigginsia The genus "Wigginsia " is named in honour of Dr. Ira Wiggins
Wilcoxia The genus is named after
General Timothy Wilcox
 , an enthusiast for desert plants.
Wilmattea The genus is named in honour of
Ms. Wilmatte P. Cockerill
  and American plant explorer.
Wittiocactus The plant was named to honour the Brazilian plant collector,
N. H. Witt
 .
Zygocactus From the
Greek
  words
zygo
 , meaning yoke or pair and
kaktos
 , meaning thistle.
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