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November 1, 2019

A Giant Cardon Cactus in Mexico, circa 1895

The French naturalist and historian Leon Diguet realized six scientific expeditions in Mexico between 1893 and 1913... With a few prints in the world, this picture offers a spectacular example of a species of cacti: the Giant Cardon, about 8 meters high and about 10 tons.

Pachycereus pringlei, also known as Mexican giant cardon or elephant cactus, is a species of cactus native to northwestern Mexico in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Sonora. It is commonly known as cardón, a name derived from the Spanish word cardo, meaning “thistle”.

Large stands of this cactus still exist, but many have been destroyed as land has been cleared for cultivation in Sonora.

The fruit of this cactus was an important food for the Seri people in Sonora, who call the cactus xaasj. The flesh of this cactus contains alkaloids, and may have been used as a psychoactive plant in Mexico.

An average mature cardon may reach a height of 10 metres (30 ft), but individuals as tall as 18 metres (60 ft) are known.] It is a slow-growing plant with a lifespan measured in hundreds of years, but growth can be significantly enhanced in its initial stages by inoculation with plant growth-promoting bacteria such as Azospirillum species. Most adult cardon have several side branches that may be as massive as the trunk. The resulting tree may attain a weight of 25 tons.


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