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Mesa Verde cactus facts for kids

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Mesa Verde cactus
Sclerocactus mesae-verdae fh 061 NM B.jpg
Conservation status

Imperiled (NatureServe)
Scientific classification
S. mesae-verde
Binomial name
Sclerocactus mesae-verde
(Boissev. ex Hill & Salisb.) L.D.Benson

Coloradoa mesae-verde Boissev.

Sclerocactus mesae-verde, Mesa Verde cactus or Mesa Verde fishhook cactus, is a species of cactus in the Sclerocactus genus occurring in habitat at 4000–5000 ft. only in Colorado and New Mexico in the Four Corners region, United States. This species was discovered near Cortez and Mesa Verde by Charles H. Boissevain, and is the only known population group in Colorado. Sclerocactus mesae-verde was formerly classified in the monotypic genus Coloradoa.


Along with the one Colorado population (1,000 plants), in New Mexico the Sclerocactus mesae-verde population groups (4,000–10,000 plants) are in a four desert locations. These five major population groups have been registered as threatened, and there are up to a total of 10 population groups left in the wild. Since 1997 federally and 2003 globally Sclerocactus mesae-verde has been an officially listed threatened species. It is most frequently found growing on the tops of hills or benches and slopes of hills, from gravelly to loamy and pulverulent clay soil.


The species is globulous and singular, but sometimes form clusters up to 15. The plant is very small, with a maximum size of only 2 to 2.5 inches in height, 3 to 3.5 inches in diameter. There are up to 14 spiral-like ribs. The flowers are white to cream-yellow, 3 cm long, 2 cm in diameter and do not open completely. The fruits are green, spherical, with a diameter of 1.25 cm. The fruits become brown with age, and split horizontally. The seeds are black.

Conservation and poaching

As with many slowly maturing desert cacti, the Mesa Verde Cactus has been subjected to over-harvesting and "poaching," contributing to its decline in the wild. Among the cacti, it is particularly sensitive to the effects of illegal cactus collecting due to its small population size, limited range, and low reproductive success rate.

The Sclerocactus mesae-verde cactus is intolerant to transplantation, wild-collected specimens usually die in cultivation, making the "poaching" pointless and eliminating potentially important genetic variation from the species as a whole.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Sclerocactus mesae-verdae para niños

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