Adaptation of five columnar cactus species to various conditions in the negev desert of Israel

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Five species of columnar cacti were examined with the aim of introducing new orchard crops to the Negev desert of Israel. The species comprised Stenocereus gummosus, S. griseus, S. thurberi and Pachycereus pringlei, all found in semi-arid regions of Mexico, and Cereus peruvianus, which is grown in sub-tropical regions. Young seedlings were planted at four sites in the Negev. The sites differ in climatic conditions and water quality. Growth data, expressed as total stem length and stem biomass, was obtained after five to six years in the orchards. They showed that C. peruvianus grew best in the site with moderate temperatures and good-quality water, whereas the other species also did well under more extreme conditions of high temperatures and brackish water. Growth of all species was significantly retarded at the site having water with the highest NaCl content. In the sixth year a severe drop in temperature at one of the sites caused extensive injury to C. peruvianus and S. griseus plants, raising doubts as to the suitability of that site for their cultivation. At this stage C. peruvianus is the most promising candidate for domestication. Its growth rate was much higher than that of the other species, yield was precocious and fruit of good quality. Stem tissue ion concentrations (dry weight basis) showed that accumulation of K+was similar at all four sites and that Na+and Ct were significantly higher (probably in toxic concentrations) at the site with the highest concentrations ofNa+and Cl~ ions in the water. At all sites Cl~ concentration in C. peruvianus was much lower than that in the other species indicating that the exclusion of Cl- from the stems was not correlated to salt tolerance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-311
Number of pages8
JournalEconomic Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 1993


  • brackish water
  • cold damage
  • domestication
  • experimental sites
  • fruiting
  • growth
  • ions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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