Peyote – Lophophora williamsii

Overall At-Risk Score: 49

Latin Name:

Lophophora williamsii (Lem. ex Salm-Dyck) J.M.Coult.¹

Common Name:

Peyote;

Family:

Cactaceae (Cactus Family)³

Geographic Region:

In the United States, it is found exclusively in southern Texas along the Mexican border. Found in the Chihuahuan Desert and mountain thornscrub of northern Mexico, in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas.¹

Habitat:

Dry, rocky scrublands. Found in gravelly clay and loam soils on gentle slopes², at elevations up to 1,900 meters above sea level.¹

Lifespan:

A very long lived cactus;

Reproduction:

A new plant takes three to fifteen years to reach reproductive maturity.

Ability to withstand disturbance and over harvest:

Population numbers have been on a downward trend due to the wild harvest of L. williamsii.

Status of Endangered/Threatened(by state):

Though it is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List¹, there are no state or federal protections put on this species.
It is labeled a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, but its use in religious ceremonies for Native American tribes is protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

The active compound in Peyote is an alkaloid: Mescaline. This alkaloid is found in large quantities in the fleshy portion of the cactus above the root.
Used traditionally by southwestern Native Tribes for spiritual and religious ceremonies, centered around the psychedelic experience that follows consumption of this cactus.

Vulnerability of habitat/changes of habitat quality and availability:

Due to the habitat of this cactus being so rugged and hostile, its native range is relatively safe from development. Although the habitat is bisected by the US-Mexico border, and increasing growth of border towns and infrastructure may become a threat to this habitat.

Demand and Relative Acreage Needed to Meet Demand:

Wild Harvesting Impact On Other Species:

Looking quite similar, poachers often mistake L. williamsii and Astrophytum asterias, a critically endangered cactus, for one another. Each cactus has a demand in illegal markets, which drives unlawful harvest of these two species.²

Recommendations for industrial and home use:

L. williamsii is illegal in most of the western world, so check with you state/country’s laws before beginning to cultivate this cactus.
This cactus is actually very easy to grow and propagate in a controlled greenhouse environment, leaving little need for practitioners to harvest from the wild.

  1. IUCN Red List. Lophophora williamsii
    http://oldredlist.iucnredlist.org/details/151962/0
  2. Terry, Price, Poole. A Tale of Two Cacti –The Complex Relationship between Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) and Endangered Star Cactus (Astrophytum asterias).
    https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_p048/rmrs_p048_115_121.pdf
  3. USDA PLANTS. Lophophora williamsii
    https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=lowi
  4. University of Wisconsin La Crosse. Lophophora williamsii – Reproduction
    http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/2011/toellner_kayl/reproduction.htm
  5. University of Idaho.
    http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~rfrey/329airfa.htm