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Peyote Lophophora williamsii


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Peyote - habit and flower
credit: PeterMansfield/CCSA

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Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family

Description Low, gray, spineless, nearly hemispherical stems, usually one (rarely to fifty) forming a broad dense clump, each topped by usually one pink flower.
Habit: succulent native perennial shrub.
Height: to 3 in (7.5 cm).
Stem: dull gray green, flattish or pumpkin-shaped, ribbed or mosaic-furrowed, 2-5 in (5-12.5 cm) diameter; most of the stem is below ground.
Leaf: usually spineless; but with thick tufts of long, woolly, gray to tan, growing from areoles.
Flower: pale pink to white, vase-shaped, 0.5-1 in (12-25 mm) wide, from center of stem; opening at day, closing at night; dried flower persists.
Fruit: small berry, cylindrical to oval to club-shaped, pink to magenta to red, 0.5-0.75 in (12-18 mm) long; persist up to one year.

Warning Peyote "buttons" may cause vomiting and diarrhea as well as hallucinations if ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Flower May to September.

Habitat Desert limestone soil: Chihuahuan desert scrub, Tamaulipan thorn scrub, usually on or near limestone hills; 330-6200 ft (100-1900 m).

Range Southern Texas and northern Mexico.

Discussion Also known as mescal, mescal buttons, pellote, divine cactus. Several varieties are proposed. Cut and dried buttons of peyote, when chewed, produce color hallucinations and are important in certain Native American religious ceremonies. The plant contains narcotics. A federal permit is required to possess any part of the plant. Peyote has been almost eliminated by collectors in Texas, but in areas of Mexico it is still very common.