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Cacti of Brazil

Applying Kew's botanical expertise to cactus conservation and science in Brazil through research, capacity building and data provision.
Arrojadoa bahiensis, a stunning cactus from the Chapada Diamantina in Bahia, is classed as Vulnerable on account of its small population size and ongoing overcollection of seeds.

This project was originally focused on the cacti of Eastern Brazil, following the publication of the first alpha-taxonomic treatment of Brazilian cacti in over 100 years (Cacti of Eastern Brazil - Taylor & Zappi 2004). Its focus was subsequently broadened to include in-depth studies of the systematics and conservation of this group of plants across the the whole of the country, and fieldwork and herbarium studies are under way to complete the existing dataset on all Brazilian species.

IUCN Red List Conservation Assessments for over 200 taxa have been submitted through specialist workshops promoted by the University of Sheffield and the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade. Recommendations for conservation action, protected areas and priorities for further study are being published in the first Brazilian Action Plan to deal with a plant group. 

Studies at species level within selected genera are being developed by our collaborator, Prof. Evandro Marsola de Moraes at the Univ. Federal de São Carlos – Sorocaba, and include the development of molecular markers for PilosocereusCereus and Uebelmannia. The project continues to foster co-supervision of several Brazilian Masters and PhD students, as follows:

  • Emerson Rocha, 2003–2007 (Univ. Federal Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco: PhD on pollination biology of Pilosocereus).
  • Alice Calvente, 2005–2010 (Univ. São Paulo, São Paulo: PhD on taxonomy and conservation of Rhipsalis in the Atlantic Forest of SE Brazil).
  • Marcelo Telles, 2010– (Univ. Federal do Ceará: PhD on the systematics of key species of Pilosocereus).

Key papers published since 2006

  • Calvente, A., Zappi, D.C., Forest, F. & Lohmann, L.G. (2011). Molecular phylogeny of tribe Rhipsalideae (Cactaceae) and taxonomic implications for Schlumbergera and HatioraMol. Phylogen. Evol. 58(3): 456 – 468.
  • Calvente, A., Zappi, D.C., Forest, F. & Lohmann, L.G. (2001). Molecular phylogeny, evolution and biogeography of South American epiphytic cacti. Intl. J. Pl. Sci. 172(7): 902 – 914.
  • Rocha, E.A., Machado, Isabel Cristina, Zappi, D. C. (2007). Floral biology of Pilosocereus tuberculatus (Werderm.) Byles & Rowley: a bat pollinated cactus endemic from the caatinga in northeastern Brazil. Bradleya 25: 129 – 144
  • Zappi, D. C., Aona, L.Y.S., Taylor, N. P. (2007). Cactaceae da Flora de São Paulo In: Flora Fanerogâmica do Estado de São Paulo. 5: 163 – 193. Imprensa Oficial do Estado de São Paulo.
  • Zappi, D.C., Taylor, N.P. & Machado, M.C. (2010). Cactaceae. In: Forzza, R.C. et al. (eds). Catálogo de Plantas e Fungos do Brasil. vol. 1: 822 – 832. Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro.
  • Perez, M.F., Téo, M.F., Zappi, D.C., Taylor, N.P. & Moraes, E.M. (2011). Isolation, Characterization, and cross-species amplification of polymorphic microsatellite markers for Pilosocereus machrisii (Cactaceae). Amer. J. Bot.: e204-e206. 

Project partners and collaborators

  • Prof. Evandro Marsola de Moraes – Universidade Federal de São Carlos – Campus Sorocaba
  • Prof. Isabel Cristina Machado – Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
  • Prof. Lucia Lohmann – Universidade de São Paulo
  • João Larocca – Universidade do Vale dos Sinos – Rio Grande do Sul
  • Marcelo Telles – Universidade Federal do Ceará
  • Diva Correia – Embrapa, Fortaleza
  • Suelma Ribeiro-Silva – Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade
  • Lidyanne Saleme Aona – Universidade Estadual de Cruz das Almas, Bahia
  • Barbara Goettsch – University of Sheffield
  • Craig Hilton-Taylor – IUCN – Cambridge

Project funders


Ministério do Meio Ambiente


Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Project Department