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Sources
Resources for Further Study
This page contains a list of references for learning more about the cactus family. If you are looking for sources to buy cactus plants, you can find CactiGuide.com approved suppliers through the NurseryLink application. Click here to learn more.
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The New Cactus Lexicon
Cactus Lexicon
David Hunt

Purchase
The New Cactus Lexicon is actually two separate books that are sold as one. The two book set attempts to describe and illustrate every known cactus species and subspecies. One of the books contains the descriptions and is organized alphabetically by genus. Also there are two separate indexes of synonyms provided. One is an alphabetical list of the current accepted name and the synonyms beneath it. The other lists all synonyms alphabetical by genus and includes the current accepted name next to it. Both of these are useful even if many hard-core enthusiasts do not accept the classification scheme of the International Cactaceae Systematics Group which the Lexicon follows. This book also employs a very large number of abbreviations in the descriptions which can take some getting used to and makes reading descriptions a bit cumbersome.

The second part of this two book set is the picture "atlas" containing over 2500 images. To my knowledge this is the most complete picture collection of the cactus family in one place. The goal of the authors was to include images of every species of cactus and many of the subspecies. This extremely helpful resource is not organized alphabetically like the text, but is grouped by similar characteristics. This intentional layout was intended to make comparison of like genera easier while an index in the back makes looking up the images by name a simple task.

The New Cactus Lexicon can serve the amature as well as the more advanced, however, the higher cost of such a large work may deter the casual cactus enthusiast. In any case, this publication attempts to describe the entire cactus family which makes it a useful general reference or a cross-reference to be used with more specialized works.
The Cactus Family
Cactus Family
Edward F. Anderson

Purchase
The Cactus Family is an excellent resource for those looking for a treatment of the entire Cactus Family. This 776 page hardcover is packed with information on each individual species of known cacti in an easy-to-use, encyclopedia-like format. Additional full-length comprehensive chapters include:

-Distinctive features of Cacti
-Ethnobotany of Cacti
-Conservation of Cacti
-Cultivation of Cacti
-Classification of Cacti

Also in this book is an Index of Scientific Names that is helpful for looking up the many synonyms of species that have been reclassified. An Index of Common Names, an Appendix with Maps of various regions where cacti grow, and an Appendix of Botanic Gardens and Herbaria with Significant Collections of Cacti further the usefulness of this fantastic book.

The Cactus Family is now out of print, but used and new copies are still out there at reasonable prices.
Cacti of the Desert Southwest
cacti of the desert southwest
Meg Quinn

Purchase
Also published in 2001, Meg Quinn must have finished this book shortly after The Cactus Family was released, since she based the scientific names in her book Cacti of the Desert Southwest on those listed in The Cactus Family. The nomenclature used in this book is therefore up-to-date. I found this wonderfully well-organized book specific to cacti of the southwest very practical as a field guide while traveling through the deserts of the southwest. Large, full-color photography coupled with specific information on the distribution/range of each species makes identification a snap. Quinn's book is an 88 page soft-cover that I would recommend to anyone who is planning a visit to the Desert Southwest.
Cacti of the Southwest
cacti of the southwest
W. Hubert Earle

Purchase
This book is a little older; published originally in 1963 and later updated in 1980, it specifically covers cacti of the Southwest. I found the most helpful feature of this book to be individual photos printed for each variety within a specific species. Given the extremely variable growth characteristics of Cacti, having these photos -although black and white- makes identification of variations much easier. A separate section of color photos was added when the book was updated in 1980. The color photos primarily represent the flower close-up for each species. Despite being over 20 years old, this book can be as useful as any modern book when used in conjunction with the Index to Scientific Names in The Cactus Family.
70 Common Cacti
70 Common Cacti
Pierre C. Fischer
At approximately 8 bucks, 70 Common Cacti is well worth the money. Published in 1989, it is the cacti-specific book in a series of books produced by Southwest Parks and Monuments Association. The pages aren't numbered and I didn't bother counting, but it is approximately 80 pages. There are lots of photos that are vary useful for identification purposes. Distribution/Range information also proves helpful along with non-technical descriptions that even beginners can relate to.
Cacti, The Illustrated Dictionary
Cacti The Illustrated Dictionary
Rod & Ken Preston-Mafham
Have an unknown cacti potted on your window sill? If so, you'll probably be able to identify it using Cacti, The Illustrated Dictionary. This book is specific to the identification of the globular cacti that are commonly collected by enthusiasts with potted collections. Hundreds of photos help simplify the identification of such genera as Echinocereus, Mammillaria, Parodia, and many more. This book was first published in 1991 and later revised in 1994. Out of 224 pages, over 200 of them feature color photos of each the species as well as photos of varieties. A short descriptions accompany the photos and I recommend this book as a companion other works that feature full descriptions, but are lacking on images.
Christmas Cacti
Christmas Cacti
A.J.S. McMillan & J.F. Horobin

Purchase
This book includes info on true Christmas Cacti, of course, but its subtitle better describes the contents; The genus Schlumbergera and its hybrids. A 160 page soft-cover published in 1995, Christmas Cacti is packed with 120 color photos. The majority of these images are flower close-ups which aid in identification of the various hybrids, but there are also several helpful line-drawings as well as a few habitat/historical pictures. The text includes a background on the Christmas (or Holiday) Cacti and species descriptions, cultivation information, and lists of varieties/hybrids. McMillan and Horobin's Christmas Cacti is a valuable resource for those interested in these popular epiphytic cacti.
Rhipsalis & Lepismium
Rhipsalis and Lepismium
Frank Supplie

Purchase
While most cactus collectors rarely give Rhipsalis or Lepismium a second thought, Supplie has put together a flattering 144 page treatment of the two genera. This book is bilingual and each page is split into two colums with German on the left and English on the right. He starts of with a history of discovery then discusses general distribution of the two genera. Next, he includes a Q&A style interview with a large Rhipsalis grower from the Netherlands, giving the reader a unique look into another grower's experience. Next is a fair discussion on cultivation specific to these epiphytic cacti followed by propagation infomation. Supplie then includes an exhaustive section on "Diseases and Plagues" that should prepare the reader for pretty much any problem that might come thier way. After all this information, Supplie then describes the species in each genera, starting with Lepismium followed by Rhipsalis. He includes a description and comments for each species. Illustrations are mostly grouped together seperately from the text with some included elsewhere. All in all, this book is one of the few resources available for those who want information on these often overlooked genera.
Pilosocereus -The Genus in Brazil
Pilosocereus -The Genus in Brazil
Daniela C. Zappi

Purchase
Daniela Zappi wrote her doctoral thesis on the Pilosocereus of Brazil and this book is a translation of that work. The focus of the genus in Brazil doesn't detract from its value as a study of the entire genus. Ample informatin is given covering the history of discovery and nomenclature of this group of cacti, which was only starting to be understood at the time this book was written in 1988. Daniela made many trips to the field, studied preserved materials, and living secimens of field-collected plants. Being a thesis, this book contains a good deal of technical information, such as charts, graphs, and microscopic photos of seeds, but it is also quite useful to the casual cactus grower who would like a better understanding of the genus. Aside from information on the genus in general, detailed description are given for the various species. Many line-art illustrations are included, mostly drawn by Zappi herself and a section in the middle of the book contains color photos of the various species. Distribution maps are also included. The book is 160 pages, published in 1994.
The Ferocacti of Baja California
Ferocacti of Baja California
Franziska & Richard Wolf

Purchase
This bilingual book bears the German title of Die Ferokakteen der Baja California on the cover along with the English translation. Even if this book were not written in both languages, it would be worth the purchase for its photographs alone. Every species of ferocactus that grows on the Baja California peninsula and surrounding islands is meticulously described along with information on nomenclature and habitat. There are over 340 beautiful color photos that illustrate entire plants at various ages and of various types. This book goes to great length to show the forms, subspecies, and other subdivisions of each species. These images in combination with flower close-ups and even seed photos ensure proper identification. While habitat shots, those of neighboring vegetation, and even local people and animals give the feeling of being there. Finally there are distribution maps to show the wild range of both species and/or subspecies. (Hardcover/240 pages/Published 2004)
Ferocactus
Ferocactus
John Pilbeam & Derek Bowdery

Purchase
Ferocactus is not part of "The Cactus File Handbook" series, but it very well could be. That is the organization is consistent with that series making it very user-friendly. Pilbeam again employs his organizational skills to make understanding the genus Ferocactus as easy as such a thing can be. The book is 116 pages long and is primarily devoted to the identifying description of every known species of the genus. There are many large pictures throughout - mostly of habitat plants. For each species a distribution map is given which is a great aid for those visiting the plants where they grow. At the front of the book, before getting into species descriptions, 16 pages of other useful information is provided. This includes an overview of the species, classification explanations with a key to the species and even cultivation tips. For those looking for more detailed information on Ferocactus than the more general cactus books provide, this 2005 BCSS publication is an excellent resource.
Rebutia
Rebutia
John Pilbeam

Purchase
The second in a series of books called "The Cactus File Handbook" which specializes in specific cacti genera and some other succulents. As with all books in this series, Rebutia by Pilbeam is packed with just about everything you could want to know about the genus it describes. The book starts with an overview of the genera; history, geography, cultivation, and taxonomy. Next are the species and subspecies listed alphabetically and superbly described. Each species/subspecies is represented with at least one picture (every one in flower) as well as range maps showing distribution in the wild, lengthy descriptions, and field collection data. Following this section is an index of "superfluous or dubious names and hybrids". Altogether this soft-cover book is 160 pages with 139 color photos and was published in 1997. Note: It does not contain those species that have been classified as Sulcorebutia.
Copiapoa
Copiapoa
Graham Charles

Purchase
This 80 page soft-cover 1998 publication by Graham Charles is number 4 in "The Cactus File Handbook" series. Inside you will find the well thought out layout typical of the other books in this series. That includes an overall description of the genera with historical, distribution, and cultivation information followed by the extensively described species and subspecies in alphabetical order. As is typical of this series, there are many photos in both habitat and cultivation; typically multiple shots for each specimen. There are 100 photos in all along with distribution range maps for each species and variety.
Mammillaria
Mammillaria
John Pilbeam

Purchase
Due to the large number of species, Mammillaria plants are certainly one of the most difficult of all cacti species to properly identify with the possible exception of the other massive and poorly described genus - Opuntia. There is no question this number 6 book in "The Cactus File Handbook" series published in 1999 will make ID much easier. This particular book differs from other books in the series being hardcover and larger; a total of 376 pages. Pilbeam hits the genus head-on with full descriptions, distribution maps, and photos for each species. There are 425 color photos in all; often more than one for each species and almost always in flower. Despite the size of this work, Pilbeam's Mammillaria stays true to form with an overview of the genus, an index of superfluous names/synonyms, and a list of field collection data. This book is sure to hold a premium spot on the bookshelf of any Mammillaria enthusiast who owns a copy of it.
Ariocarpus et cetera
Ariocarpus et cetera
John Pilbeam & Bill Weightman

Purchase
With the help of Weightman, Pilbeam authors yet another fantastic cactus book. Unlike Pilbeam's other single-genera books such as Mammillaria and Rebutia, the authors of Ariocarpus Etc. have included a unique collection of species from several genera. As the book's subtitle explains these are "The special, smaller genera of Mexican cacti". While this might leave a beginner collector scatching thier head as to what this means; those more seasoned will be able to fondly guess at which species are covered in this book. Seventeen genera are included here, which, aside from Ariocarpus, also includes Astrophytum, Aztekium, Geohintonia, Obregonia, Ortegocactus, Turbinicarpus and more. This book is beautifully illustrated and after a brief introduction, wastes no time in describing the various species. True to Pilbeam's highly organized style, the book logically follows a pattern for each species as follows: A general description of the genus including history of discovery and nomenclature, then the history and nomenclature for each species within followed by detailed plant descriptions, cultivation notes, and distribution data. Again, the photography is superb and nearly every one of the 138 pages of this book is graced with one or more large photos of impressive habitat plants sure to make any cactus collector drool. This book was published in 2006 by the British Cactus and Succulent Society and copies will not likely be available for long after that.
The Genus Turbinicarpus
The Genus Turbinicarpus
Milan Zachar

Purchase
Milan Zachar decided to include the broad range of species within his coverage of the genus Turbinicarpus. That includes those considered by many collectors as Gymnocactus and Rapicactus. Each species is described in detail and includes many notes from Zachar's extensive time in the field. Aside from several trips to the habitat, Zachar lived in Mexico for four years while he engaged in intense research of these plants. Original descriptions in Latin are included and even climate graphs for various regions where the species occur. Photos are plentiful of these plants in habitat. The Genus Turbinicarpus is 144 pages and a useful addition for those wanting to better understand this taxonomically controversial grouping of cacti.
Coryphantha
Coryphantha
R.F. Dicht & A.D. Luthy
This monograph on the genus Coryphantha by Dicht and Luthy is the first of its kind. While the authors admit in the preface, that man's attempt to categorize living things into neat little packages is limited by nature itself, their work will undoubtedly remain the foundation for any future treatments of this plant group. Packed full of technical information, this book is none-the-less very accessible to a novice reader. Sections on the environment that cacti grow in, the morphology of the genus, and the history of its discovery bring together in a very readable format over 300 articles and other descriptions on the genus. In addition to weeding through the mountains of existing research, Dicht and Luthy spent a fair amount of time in the field validating that material. Each species is described in a consistent manner along with comments specific to each taxon. Multiple photos of each species and some habitats are grouped together in the middle of the book along with color distribution maps. Species descriptions are followed by a brief section on cultivation. In total, this 2005 Springer publication is 200 pages and was translated from the original German version published two years prior.

The Native Cacti of California
Native Cacti of California
Lymnon Benson

For those who wish to explore California and view its wild cacti, this book makes the task much easier. Within the 243 pages you will find general cacti biology information, identification and classification information as it relates specifically to the native species of California. Also geographical and climatic information regarding California's different vegetative zones are included. Some of this information may be outdated as the book was first published in 1969, but the majority of information is still very useful to those interested in the subject. This book is packed with line drawings, color plates, and black and white photos useful for identification as well as 18 maps showing the distribution/native location of each species. The Native Cacti of California is a wonderful resource for locating the widely spread out species in the large state of California.

Cacti of Texas
Cacti of Texas
Gertrud & Ad Konings

Purchase
The husband and wife team who authored this book have done something that few others can claim. They have seen all 136 species of native Texas cacti in their natural habitat and almost all while in bloom and captured each in pictures. These pictures are used to lavishly illustrate this 11.5 x 11 inch book with full-page and larger-than-life images of cacti in the wild. Images were selected to show the plants in their surroundings as well as stem and flower close-ups.

Species are listed alphabetically by scientific name and habitat descriptions are given for each. Maps are listed in the back showing the location of each photograph in the book. It is hard to imagine a more useful book for the person who desires to find one of the Texas cacti in habitat. Aside from this practical value, the format of the book makes it equally suitable as a "coffee table" book for leisurely flipping through and soaking in all the magnificent images.
Cactus
Cactus
Elisabeth Manke

The photographs alone warrant the purchase of this cacti specific book. All but 7 out of 160 pages are graced with one or more fantastic pictures of show-quality specimens, which are great for identification or merely for viewing pleasure. The focus of this 1998 book is on the care and propagation of cacti with general information on potting, seeding, cutting, and grafting as well as a per-species water-temperature-soil requirement listing. Approximately 50 species are described in an easy-to-follow format. Although many will find the selection sufficient, I find the only drawback of this book is that it doesn't cover more species.

The Illustrated Guide to Cacti
Illustrated Guide to Cacti
Rudolf Slaba
This book was given to me as a gift and for a time it was my only book on cacti. This book has 224 pages and has illustrations rather than photographs. Published in 1992, this book's features cacti that are popularly grown by the amateur cacti enthusiast. The combination of the use of illustrations and selective coverage prevents this from being one of the better books for identifying various species. However, this book contains a wealth of information on growing and caring for cacti. Subjects covered include: Repotting, Watering, Seeding, Grafting, and Disease and Pest Control. This makes it an excellent book for those looking for help learning how to grow cacti successfully.

www.cactusexplorers.org.uk Free PDF Downloadable Cactus and Succulent Journal
www.columnar-cacti.org Lots of pictures specifically of columnar cacti.
www.desert-tropicals.com Extensive site with just about every cacti and succulent known listed alphabetically
www.cssainc.org The Cactus & Succulent Society of America -a must join organization for any serious Cacti/Succulent enthusiast
www.occss.org Orange County Cactus & Succulent Society -my local Orange County, CA club (See the CSSA site above for a list of local clubs near you)
www.eriosyce.info Chilean cacti in habitat in Spanish and English -built by Juan y Florencia
Gene Schroeder's Images High-Quality photos of properly identified cacti in flower
Website of D.S. Franges A Tucson Arizona gardener who shares his love for cacti with great photos and descriptions!
Opuntia Specific Page This website tackles the extremely difficult task of sorting out Opuntia classification. Multiple contributors lend to its accuracy.
Cactus-Mall Cactus and Succulent website host and directory.
Cactus-Aventures Quarterly journal on Cactus and Succulents in English, Spanish, and French.
Piante Grasse Quarterly journal on Cactus and Succulents in both English and Itlaian versions.
Cactus & Co. Printed Journal in English and Italian and a very active web forum in Italian.
Turbinicarpus.net Monograph on the genus Turbinicarpus in German, English, and Spanish.
Echinocereus.de Monograph on the genus Echinocereus in German and English.
Succulentseeds.com Over 5000 species of fresh cactus seeds, succulentseeds and other exotic seeds.

Those Captivating Cacti
Those Captivating Cacti
Panorama Studios
When the producer Rick Smith sent me a DVD on cactus, I had no idea what to expect. After all, I had never seen a DVD on just cactus before. This 21 minute video gives a rather general introduction to the Cactus Family describing what makes a plant a cactus in the first half and then discusses basic cultivation tips in the second half.

Since cacti do not move, the overview is much like a slide-show while the narrator (a female) explains some of the distinct features of cacti and comments on their natural distribution. Quite a variety of species are shown - most in cultivation. All very nice plants. I was hoping for more habitat footage in this DVD, but that probably has more to do with my high exposure to plants in cultivation - in both my own collection as well as in pictures. This DVD is geared towards beginners, and as I believe was intended it does do a good job of giving the viewer a 'feel' for the diversity of this unique plant family.

Likewise, the verbiage gives a beginner-level overview defining the cactus family. While this makes for a good start, I would like to have seen some discussion in the DVD explaining what a cactus is NOT. I admit this is counter-intuitive, but I could not count the number of times I've been asked for information about someone's "cactus" that turns out not to be a cactus at all. This mistake is so common that I think it is essential for beginners. On the other hand, I was very pleased to see the attention given to the diversity plants - especially in recognizing the epiphytic cacti. Many times it seems there is a dichotomy between epi cactus (aka jungle cactus) growers and desert cactus growers - almost as if they were separate families altogether.

The cultivation section of the DVD is where the video format really is ideal. For example, trying to describe the use of rolled up newspaper to assist in repotting is hard to do in words -even with pictures, but is very apparent in a video. Cultivation topics covered are potting, light & water, growing conditions, propagation, and pests/diseases. While the bulk of the cultivation advice is sound, I would recommend that the viewer research further on these topics for best results. I think more emphasis should have been given in two areas in particular: 1. The importance of the soil used and need for drainage. 2. The need for strong light. Mistakes made in either of these two areas are the most common that I encounter with beginners.

The video wraps up with some suggested sources for more information. Along with suggesting books and web searches, there is good mention of local cactus clubs. I was very happy to see this attention given to the local clubs as there is not a better place for a beginner to advance in this hobby. For those without access to a local club, interactive web forums are the next best thing. Unfortunately these are not mentioned in the video specifically.

Overall, I enjoyed watching this video. I hope that it will soon be followed by other cactus documentaries that cover the subject in even more detail - such as a special on cactus conservation. While more experienced growers will not likely learn anything new from this video, the novice will get enough information that will hopefully prompt them to give cactus growing a try.
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