Cactus Rustling

By Charlie Nardozzi

'Fresh Look Gold' Celosia

In the Southwest, organ pipe and Saguaro cacti adorn wild spaces such as the Chihuahuan Desert. The number of wild cactus and rare plants are dwindling, however, even on protected lands, due not to habitat loss but to both legal harvesting and cactus poaching.

Use of cacti in water conserving, xeriscape landscape designs and the collection of rare cacti by "cactophiles" from around the world are a multi-million dollar business. The legal and illegal harvesting are depleting the wild species in Southwestern deserts faster than they can naturally reproduce. The concern is not just for the loss of rare species in the plant kingdom, but for the whole ecosystem. Birds and animals, from hummingbirds to mountain lions, rely on cactus for shelter and food.

A report from the World Wildlife Federation details the concerns and suggests closer monitoring of legal harvesting and a crackdown on the poaching trade. Go to to learn more.

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