Saturday, February 07, 2009

Lophophora alberto-vojtechii, a new miniature species in the genus Lophophora

In the June 2008 issue of the Cactus & Co magazine Jaroslav Šnicer, Jaroslav Bohata, and Vojtěch Myšák described a new Lophophora species, Lophophora alberto-vojtechii, characterized by its small size, adult plants typically reaching just about 2 cm (less than one inch) in diameter.

Flowering Lophophora alberto-vojtechii at the type locality
Flowering Lophophora alberto-vojtechii at the type locality. Scale is indicated by the coin that is 23 mm in diameter

The full description of the lilliputian species reads:

The stem is a greyish green with a touch of mauve (greenish, greenish grey to mauve), for the most part concealed in the ground. The aerial part (crown) is flat to slightly convex, 18 mm wide (10 to 50 mm in adult plants); the subterranean part of the stem is cylindrical, extending 25 mm down from the base of the crown (the depth in adult plants increases with age). The stem is distinctively small and divided into five ribs (up to eight ribs in exceptional cases). The trichomes are visible only near the apical meristem; they drop off early, leaving the areoles inconspicuous.

The root is thick and bulbous, 30 mm long and 16 mm in diameter where it joins the subterranean stem, smooth, and a dirty white to creamy yellow colour.

The flower is 23 mm wide (15 mm to 35 mm). The tepals and style are long, the same as in other members of the Diffusae section. The filaments are white, the anthers a yellowish orange. The style is white, while the stigma is yellowish (white to yellowish or pinkish). The tepals are light pink with a distinctive darker stripe (white to dirty pink, rarely creamy yellowish with a stripe in a brownish, salmon or darker pink shade) on the adaxial surface.

The fruit is round to slightly claviform, and dries out over time. The fruit is a dirty white colour, ranging to yellowish or pinkish.

The seed is black, round, 1.45 mm long (1.15 to 1.45 mm) and 1.45 mm wide (1.0 to 1.45 mm). The hilum is compressed into a broad V-shape. The perimeter of the hilum consists of a pronounced edge. The testa is nodulated with protruding outer cell walls. The individual cells of the testa are clearly demarcated.

Type locality: northern San Luís Potosí, Mexico, 1700 metres above sea level.

The type specimen was collected by G. B. Hinton on 1st August 2007 and is kept at the G. B. Hinton herbarium filed under number 28642.

We are naming the plant alberto-vojtechii in honour of two persons, the late prominent Czech traveler and cactus-hunter Alberto Vojtěch Frič and the current Lophophora enthusiast Vojtěch Myšák.

Lophophora alberto-vojtechii just finished flowering
Lophophora alberto-vojtechii just finished flowering. At this size plants flower regularly

The authors place L. alberto-vojtechii within the section Diffusae (see the Kaktusy 2005, Lophophora Special) along with L. diffusa, L. fricii, and L. koehresii. Based on similarities in habitat (mud flats), growth form, body, fruit, and flower morphology, and loss of trichomes in older areoles, Šnicer et al. conclude that L. alberto-vojtechii is closest related to L. koehresii. However the two species differ in size, the color of the epidermis, seed morphology, and the number of ribs.

Flowering Lophophora alberto-vojtechii at the site in Zacatecas
Flowering Lophophora alberto-vojtechii at the site in Zacatecas

Šnicer et al. argue that even though the small Lophophora alberto-vojtechii plants might look immature at a first glance they are not, as is evident by old growth epidermis at the ground level and the subterranean part of the shoot.

Lophophora alberto-vojtechii morphology
Lophophora alberto-vojtechii (a) Flat, photosynthetic crown (b) Subterranean part of stem (c) The root

The habitat comprises flat, alluvial sediments, as in the case of Lophophora koehresii. Lophophora alberto-vojtechii has a distinctively geophytic lifestyle, withdrawing into small cavities below ground during dry periods. Here the plants are covered with dust and dry leaves, protected from the sun until the next rains.

The type locality of Lophophora alberto-vojtechii is in the northern part of San Luís Potosí, but it has also been found growing in the states of Zacatecas and Coahuila. The flowers of the Zacatecas plants are more white than those of the plants at the type locality (see picture above).

Flowering Lophophora alberto-vojtechii at the type locality
Flowering Lophophora alberto-vojtechii at the type locality

All in all the description is credible and well argued. Adding to the credibility is the fact that George Hinton collected the holotype and stores it in his herbarium, I doubt he would do that if he wasn’t convinced that this new taxon is for real.

The flower buds are visible very early, as they are not hidden in the wool
The flower buds are visible very early, as they are not hidden in the wool.

Jaroslav Šnicer, Jaroslav Bohata, and Vojtěch Myšák (2008), “Lophophora alberto-vojtechii - an exquisite new miniature from the genus Lophophora”, Cactus & Co 12 (2), 105-117


  1. Wow this is awesome! Thanks for posting!

    I wonder why the flowers of the Lophophora in the third picture from the top look so different than the other Lophophora alberto-vojtechii flowers?

  2. That plant is from the Zacatecas site, the others are from the type locality in northern San Luís Potosí. According to the article the Zacatecas plants have brighter flowers, but judging from the photos the petals also look slightly wider and denser set than those of the type plants. But then again, one shouldn't put too much into a couple of photos of a few plants - the plants are from different sites and are almost bound to have some variation.

  3. Absolutely smashing blog! Thank you for joining Blotanical and showing us the way to your extraordinary place. Being a Cacti-molester myself, I often decide to stick to my indoor collection (which is petite) and not harm any new specimens. But still, my love for cacti and succulents in particular is ever so greater ( I'm obsessed with all sorts of Euphorbias and Pachypodiums). So thank you again for all this wealth you're sharing with the world. And keep up the excellent work. Respect,


  4. Great post: pictures and text! Thank you! ^^

  5. I want to ask you:

    ¿Pure silice soil (above 2-4mm) is right for lophophora?


    Your coldhouse experiments are very interesing, I just discover in this pages that lophos can survive to -5ºC in a extreme dry conditions.

  6. In general most fast draining soils will do. I usually mix in some loamy and gravelly sand, and also some unperfumed (and unused ;-) cat litter made from burnt "moler" - I don't know the English phrase for "moler" but it's a marine diatomite deposit occurring a few places in Denmark, that consists of diatomaceous earth (approximately 60%) and bentonite clay (approximately 40%). The "moler" cat litter is a very lightweight material that retains water easily without the soil getting soaked.

  7. Fantastic blog!!
    This new Lophophora species is most interesting. Has there been any news suggesting that this has been officially accepted as an authentic new species discovery? has it made an appearance in cultivation yet? thanx

  8. The only other mention I have seen of Lophophora alberto-vojtechii in the literature is in the 3rd installation of Martin Terry's article series, Stalking the wild Lophophora (Cactus and Succulent Journal, vol. 80:6, pp310–317). The species is not mentioned in the article text but is included in the distribution map given for the Lophophora genus.

    I haven't seen Lophophora alberto-vojtechii in cultivation yet but am in contact with a couple of retailers that expect to have it "soon" ;-) I guess we have to be patient - anyway I'll wait for the seeds to be offered by a reputable retailer before getting any myself.

  9. I too experienced low germination rates in Loph. AV, the seeds are expensive so I aimed for 100% success .. 1 out of 10 seeds from the SLP locality and 3 out of 10 from the Zacatecas locality germinated. The 1st seed germinated in a week and the last in 3 weeks. Its now the end of week 4 there have been no further germinations .. I sowed a futher 20 seeds from SLP a week ago and will report my successes with these in a few weeks .. Ade

  10. Santallum, thanks for sharing your results. I would be very interested to learn the germination rate you obtained for the last 20 seeds - as described in this post my own results are similarly disgruntling.

  11. ... OK, thanks for your interest, I had a 25% (plus) success rate wth the second lot of 20 Loph Alberto-Vojtechii seeds .. The seeds baught from Koehres all looked healthy and were of uniform size (I have heard of another grower having 80% gernination with LAV seeds from Koehres, and its generally agreed that his seeds are second to none)
    Nice healthy young plants of Loph Alb-Voj can be purchased online from a new nursery in the Czech Republic (google : "LITTLE GERARDO´S CACTUS NURSERY" to find them).. The plants are around 8mm in diameter and already have the beautiful colour you would associate with Loph Koehresii .. Jarda who runs the nursery is a serous grower and cactus expert and he was in the UK a few weeks back giving a talk on the genus Epithelantha .. So if you have had problems growing from seed .. This is the answer to your prayers
    PS I have alb-voj seedling photos I could post here, if someone would be kind enough to tell me how .. cheers

  12. Thanks so much for this wonderful, excellent and informative blog!

  13. I have much to add to this blog, including many excellent photographs. I have macro photographs of this species flowering at 9mm !!! .. but it seems nobody is updating the blog ??? .. I hope you will get back to me .. letgs get this blog back on track !! .. Please email me for details .. I have the photos but I do not know how to upload then onto the blog .. Regards .. Ade

  14. The germination rate is low .. But I have had them in bud on their own roots in well under a year !! .. And they form flower buds freely .. However, the buds usually dry up and die .. I would be most grateful if anyone can suggest why this is .. I don't have this problem with my other lophs (as far as I can tell with all the wool !!)

  15. Ade / Santallum if you have photos you would like to share please leave your contact information via this contact form.


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