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Rare Cactus Plants in the world

Welcome to our blog dedicated to rare cactus varieties in the UK! Cacti are fascinating plants with a unique beauty and adaptability that make them a popular choice for collectors and enthusiasts around the world. In the UK, there are many rare and exotic cactus species that can be grown both indoors and outdoors, adding a touch of exoticism to any garden or home. In this blog, we will explore some of the most unusual and sought-after cacti species found in the UK, their unique features and where to find them. Join us on this journey of discovery and learn about the incredible world of rare and critically endangered species in their natural habitat.

Cactaceae cactus - Desert Plants

What is considered as a rare cactus?

A cactus can be considered rare for several reasons. One factor is its natural habitat, as some cacti are native to specific regions that are difficult to access or protect, making them rare cactus due to their limited distribution. Other cacti may be rare due to their unique physical characteristics, such as unusual shapes, sizes, or colors, or because they have rare or unusual adaptations that allow them to survive in extreme environments. Some cacti may also be considered rare due to their scarcity in cultivation or because they are protected by law, limiting their availability to collectors and enthusiasts. Overall, a cactus may be considered a rare cactus if it has limited distribution, unique physical characteristics or adaptations, or limited availability for cultivation or collection.

Rare plants

What is the rarest cactus plants?

It is difficult to identify the rarest cactus plant as there are so many different cactus species, and rarity can be defined in many ways, including scarcity in the wild, limited availability in cultivation, and unique physical characteristics. That being said, some of the rarest cacti include those with very limited ranges or those that are threatened by habitat loss, over-harvesting, or other human activities.


For example, the critically endangered Ariocarpus fissuratus, also known as the "Living-rock Cactus" is a rare cactus native to Northern Mexico and Texas. This genus is threatened by habitat loss and collection for the horticultural trade. Another example is the Aztekium ritteri, a small, globular cactus that is native to a limited area in Mexico and is considered one of the rarest and most endangered cactus species in the world. Other rare cacti include those with unique physical characteristics, such as the Astrophytum asterias cultivar 'Super Kabuto', which has distinct ridges and markings and is highly sought-after by collectors. Overall, the rarity of a cactus depends on various factors, and there are many rare cacti species that are highly valued by collectors and enthusiasts.

What is CITES?

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a global treaty designed to regulate international trade in wildlife and plants. The Convention was created in 1973, and currently has 183 member countries, including the United Kingdom.

CITES aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. It does so by regulating the import, export, and re-export of certain species listed on its appendices, based on their conservation status and the level of trade they face. The appendices classify species into three categories: Appendix I includes species that are threatened with extinction and whose trade is prohibited; Appendix II includes species that are not currently threatened with extinction, but whose trade must be closely monitored to ensure it does not become a threat; and Appendix III includes species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES parties for assistance in controlling the trade.

CITES works through a system of permits and certificates, which are required for the international trade of wild listed species. Parties to the Convention are required to enforce CITES regulations within their own countries and to cooperate with other parties in enforcing the Convention globally.

CITES has been successful in controlling international trade in endangered species, and has helped to protect many species from over-exploitation and extinction. However, illegal trade in wildlife and plants remains a significant problem, and CITES continues to work with its member countries to improve enforcement and reduce the demand for illegally traded species.

Is it bad to buy critically endangered species?

Artificial propagation of plants is supported, as it increases the availability and variety of plants grown in a controlled environment and this improves access to supplies of rare, high quality, pest-free cactus plants. Ultimately taking the pressure off of the wild population and adding protection to endangered wild species, like Ariocarpus. Therefore, it is important that you purchase rare cactus plants from reputable sellers who have artificially grown their plants (i.e. never illegally collected from the wild).

What are some rare cactus varieties?

There are many rare species that exist in the world, and some of them are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. Here are a few examples:

  1. Ariocarpus Trigonus - also known as the "star rock cactus", this species is native to Mexico (the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León) and has a distinctive long triangular leaves which give the appearance of stars. Yellow cream colored flowers can be seen when in bloom.

  2. Astrophytum asterias - commonly known as the "sand dollar cactus", this species has a round shape and is covered in white dots that give it a starry appearance.

  3. Obregonia Denegrii - also known as "artichoke cactus", is a slow-growing cacti native to a small geographic range in the Valley of Jaumave, Tamaulipas (Mexico). It is amongst the most famous of cacti species, due to its fascinating artichoke shaped stems.

  4. Turbinicarpus Alonsoi - has no common name and is native to Mexico Northeast and ranks as one of the smallest cactus specimen! Displaying unique triangular tubercles, which become slightly elongated and darker at the apex. Interestingly this incredible species can live almost completely underground in the wild!

  5. Strombocactus Disciformis - also known as "Ariocarpus Disciformis" is native to Northeast Mexico and has a blue-green stem and flattened tubercles, which give this species its distinct rhomboid geometric shape.

Why are Ariocarpus so expensive?

Ariocarpus is an expensive cactus because it's extremely slow growing and also threatened with extinction in the wild (CITES Appendix I). It is protected under Appendix 1 in CITES, to deter illegal harvesting in its natural habitat. Therefore when artificially grown, it can take many years to become a mature cactus plant and is often a grafted cactus for this reason. It is imperative that these plants are not taken from the wild for this reason, to ensure their survival. It is possible to buy this rare cactus plant from reputable sellers like Desert Plants Ltd, who's cactus plants have been artificially grown from seed. This rare cactus genus would be highly prized in any cacti collection and as a result is likely one of the most expensive cactus species.

What cactus plants are considered rare due to high demand?

There are many rare species highly sought after by collectors. Here are a few examples:

  1. Lophophora Williamsii - Also known as "peyote" are a rare cactus species due to their popularity and high demand in the cacti world. An interesting plant that is completely spineless and button shaped. It has a strong history with Native Americans whom used its psychoactive chemical compound in religious ceremonies and is in fact protected on their sacred lands. Preferring partial shade, filtered light as they typically grow under shrubs or between rocky slopes in their natural habitat.

  2. Trichocereus Pachanoi - Also known as "San Pedro" is a towering columnar cactus, historically used in Peru for it psychoactive chemical compound in ceremonies. A fascinating species that can grow up to 30cm per year and produce cream colored flowers! It is also known for its fascinating genetic mutation in the form of a crest. Reaching to the sky, this species prefers direct sunlight in full sun.

Where can I buy rare cacti?

It is important to purchase rare cactus plants from a reputable seller like Desert Plants Ltd who only sell artificially grown plants (i.e. never illegally collected from the wild). Artificial propagation of plants is supported, as it increases the availability and variety of plants grown in a controlled environment and this improves access to supplies of rare, high quality, pest-free cactus plants. Ultimately taking the pressure off of the wild population and adding protection to endangered wild species.

cactus and succulents


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