The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
The conservation of Consolea corallicola is fully sponsored.
Jennifer Possley contributed to this Plant Profile.
Opuntia corallicola is a prickly pear cactus endemic to the Florida Keys. Plants can grow to a tree-like form, with a trunk differentiated from the branching upper cladodes (Britton and Rose 1920, Small 1930) (the common name, "semaphore cactus," refers to the species' resemblance to the posts used to signal railroad trains). Opuntia corallicola may very well be the most endangered plant in the United States. There exists only one population of eight genetically distinct individuals and several hundred small clones (from fallen pads), located in the Florida Keys. To make matters worse, the recent arrival of an exotic insect pest, the cactus moth, is greatly threatening the health of the remaining individuals (Bradley and Gann 1999). The population has survived as well as it has through careful management by The Nature Conservancy, and through the help of volunteers who check the cacti for cactus moth larvae each week.
Distribution & Occurrence
Found in a rocky, well-drained hardwood hammock (Avery and Loope 1994, Austin 1998).
|8 individuals in 1 "wild" population, several dozen individuals at ouplanted sites, and an unknown number on private lands (Garvue 1998, USFWS 1999).|
Conservation, Ecology & Research
Much of the remaining population is suffering from what appears to be a rot-causing pathogen. Pads become brown and mushy and many eventually die. Dr. Peter Stiling (2000) of the University of South Florida (Tampa) is investigating the cause of this apparent disease .
Collection by cactus enthusiasts
Exotic cactus moth larvae
Salt water intrusion
Lack of genetic diversity
Dr. Peter Stiling of University of South Florida in Tampa has conducted life history research, and is currently investigating the cause of a brown rot that plagues many of the cacti.
Fairchild Tropical Garden is in the beginning stages of a long-term greenhouse study, investigating the effects of salinity and light levels on cactus health.
The Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection manages and monitors the outplanting on Key Largo.
Benson, L. 1982. The Cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. 1044p.