Lophophora williamsii 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Caryophyllales Cactaceae

Scientific Name: Lophophora williamsii
Species Authority: (Lem. ex Salm-Dyck) J.M.Coult.
Common Name(s):
Spanish Peyote
Echinocactus williamsii Lem. ex Salm-Dyck
Taxonomic Source(s): Hunt, D., Taylor, N. and Charles, G. (compilers and editors). 2006. The New Cactus Lexicon. dh Books, Milborne Port, UK.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A4acd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2009-11-19
Assessor(s): Terry, M.
Reviewer(s): Superina, M., Goettsch, B.K. & Hilton-Taylor, C.
Contributor(s): Fitz Maurice, B & Fitz Maurice, W.A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Goettsch, B.K.

Many subpopulations of Lophophora williamsii are heavily harvested in the wild throughout the range of the species, some to the point of extirpation, providing evidence that at least 30% of the population will be lost. This reduction is very likely to be irreversible given that whole individuals are harvested and population regeneration is thus unlikely. Even though the species has a very large range, land use change is a significant threat for some subpopulations and the levels of exploitation are not likely to stop in the near future. As a precautionary measure, the species is listed as Vulnerable under criterion A4acd (three generations is 150 years).

According to expert W.A.Fitz-Maurice (pers. comm. 2009) the species should be listed as Least Concern because of the large number of mature individuals. In Mexico, collection is illegal and people are punished for collecting it. Because of its hallucinogenic properties this species is classed as a drug. However, the plant is used to make ointments at an industrial scale, which are sold widely in Mexico and this trade is not regulated and the ointment is not classed a drug.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2009 Least Concern (LC)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The species is distributed in the United States in Texas, and in Mexico in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. It has a wide altitudinal range, being recorded from 100 up to 1,900 m asl.
Countries occurrence:
Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas); United States (Texas)
Lower elevation limit (metres): 100
Upper elevation limit (metres): 1900
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The species is very abundant throughout its range. However, an ongoing population decline in the range of 30% has been estimated/projected.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This geophytic, button-like cactus species occurs in xerophyllous scrub including Tamaulipan thorn scrub. It grows on calcareous soils.
Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 50

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is used as an ornamental and by indigenous people as medicine and for religious purposes. It is sought after for its hallucinogenic properties. In more recent years, a wide variety of ointments produce at an industrial scale have been made widely available in Mexico.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Illegal collecting and land use change affect several subpopulations. Commercial harvesting by religious groups in the U.S has drastically decimated subpopulations and the plant has become less available through time because often the whole plant rather than the edible part is removed. In addition harvesting is excessive (Terry et al. 2011). Land use change for agriculture is a significant threat, as the land is completely ploughed, thus eliminating all vegetation including L. williamsii and its seed bank.

The plant is used to make ointments which are produce at a large scale and are widely available in Mexico, studies on the composition and pharmacology of such ointments are under-way (M. Terry pers. comm. 2013).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

The species is listed on CITES Appendix II and it is legally protected in Mexico by the national list of species at risk of extinction, NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, where it is listed under the category “subject to special protection” (Pr; SEMARNAT 2010).

The species occurs within many protected areas, including the Huiricuta Reserve in San Luis Potosí, the main centre for the Huichol (Mexican ethnic group) ceremonies, which is now threatened by mining developers.

More research is necessary in order to establish harvest rates of plants used in manufacturing of Peyote ointments.

The species would benefit from monitoring population trends, harvest and habitat trends.

Citation: Terry, M. 2013. Lophophora williamsii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T151962A581420. . Downloaded on 29 November 2015.
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