Melocactus conoideus in the wild in the Serra do Periperi, near Vitoria da Conquista, Bahia, Eastern Brazil (Photo: Marlon Machado)
Melocactus conoideus Buining & Brederoo
Rated by IUCN as Critically Endangered.
At times a fire-swept cerrado/campo rupestre/caatinga transition area, but in appearance most like the campo rupestre phase known as campo sujo, with sparse low shrubs and herbs but no trees; under and between shrubs in quartz gravel. More details below.
This cactus bears short spines.
About this species
The strongly depressed (squat) habit of this species is thought to be an adaptation to minimise the effects of fire, although it can still get scorched on occasion.
It grows with another more common Melocactus, M. concinnus, which is typical of the campo rupestre / caatinga ecotone (transition area between different plant communities). Both are beautiful and popular plants in cultivation in Europe and elsewhere amongst cactus hobbyists. Their mass propagation, in places like the Canary Islands, has helped reduce the desire for wild-collection and export, which is banned under international law (CITES). However, some stock produced ex situ in this way may be impure due to hybridization in nursery stands.
The curious bristly head of the plant, known as a 'cephalium', is typical of this genus (Melocactus) and represents a specialised structure in which the flowers and fruits are borne and protected.