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UW Researcher Examines Long-Living Cacti in Bolivia

April 19, 2021

David Williams, a University of Wyoming professor of botany, and his colleagues at other institutions recently published a paper in the journal Conservation Physiology regarding what may be the world’s longest-living cactus species.

The high-elevation cacti growing on Bolivia’s Altiplano, which are more than 400 years old, are a threatened species.

Using geochemical isotope methods, Williams and his peers show that the conservation of this species, the pasacana, or Echinopsis atacamensis, depends on growth of individual cactus plants tied to periods of high precipitation and cool temperatures on the Altiplano -- related to dynamics of sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and air mass circulations over the southern Andes region.

Compared to the more familiar saguaro cactus in North America, the pasacana appears to mature much more slowly and live much longer -- maximum ages in saguaro are estimated to be only about 250 years.

The full research paper may be viewed here.

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