Bio-Diversity Park Houses Rare Cacti

By TheHindu on 14 Jul 2015 | read

Touch-me-not! Cactus flowers in bloom at the Bio-diversity Park at RCD Hospital in Visakhapatnam. —Wish to know more about mysterious world of cacti and succulents? A visit to the Bio-diversity Park at RCD Hospital will unveil many secrets of these distinctive and unusual plant species. The park that is being managed by the Dolphin Nature Conservation Society (DNCS) has recently added some rare and endangered varieties of cacti.

Out of the 200 varieties of cacti and succulents in the park, the endangered varieties include melocactus spp. – a variety of cacti marked in the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and ariocarpus spp.

The plants have been procured from different parts of the country like Ooty, Dehradun, Bangalore, Kolkata and from nurseries in the State.

“Due to a rising commercial interest, the native habitats of many cacti species were affected, resulting in the extermination of many species,” said Prof. M. Rama Murty, the founder member of park.

Economic viability

Economic exploitation of the cactus can also be traced back to the Aztecs. The North American Indians exploit the alkaloid content of many varieties of cacti for ritual purposes. While cactus is primarily associated to be a dessert plant, some of the species also contain medicinal properties.

Euphorbia cattimandoo is known to cure rheumatism or joint pains. The ruby ball is a special mutant variety of cactus appears like a red flower on the tip of the plant,” he said.

Their main area of distribution is Argentina, part of Uruguay, Paraguay, Southern Bolivia and part of Brazil.

A native of Mexico, Lophophora also finds a place the park. The species have an extremely slow growth, sometimes taking up to thirty years to reach the flowering age.

Due to this slow growth and over-harvesting by collectors, the species are considered to be in danger of extinction in the wild.

No data

This species is noted for its psychotropic alkaloids and known for having psychoactive effects giving a delirious high. “The stem is used as a spiritual hallucinogen,” he added.

While many of these species are rare and show important characteristics, there is, however, no proper data available on cacti plants in India due to a lack to thorough study in this area, Prof. Murty said. There are plenty of other sub-species of cactus in the park that have not yet been identified.

To verify the names of the unidentified section of cactus and succulents, DNCS is conducting a research.

“This will be highly beneficial for research scholars and students who are working on this segment,” he added.