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The Cactus Primer

The Cactus Primer presents the amateur cactophile with an excellent introduction to cactus biology and provides the informed reader with an invaluable summary of the last forty years' research. This book goes far beyond books that instruct readers in the propagation, growth, and care of these plants; addressing matters of more scientific interest, it takes an integrated approach to the presentation of the form, physiology, evolution, and ecology of cacti. The book is unique in that it combines the descriptive morphology and physiology documented in the scientific literature with more general observations found in popular publications on cacti. It provides a new generic classification of the cacti and contains much new information, including data on photosynthesis, heat and cold tolerance, computer modeling of ribs, and the effects of spines.

Enhanced by over 400 illustrations and supplemented with an extensive glossary, this book will appeal to cactus enthusiasts interested in the classification and growth of cacti, as well as to plant biologists who use cacti to illustrate desert adaptation and convergent evolution. Written in accessible style, The Cactus Primer is bound to serve a dual function as both an instructive tool and a reference work in cactus biology for years to come.

Author Information


Arthur C. Gibson is Professor of Biology, University of California at Los Angeles.NobelPark:

Park S. Nobel is Distinguished Professor of Biology, Emeritus, at the University of California at Los Angeles.


This volume will be welcomed by botanists, horticulturists and amateur cactophiles alike, and especially by those interested in the drier parts of the world, for it is not possible to find such a mass of scattered information in one book--and amassed and expertly evaluated by two recognized specialists.

There probably is no other pair better qualified to write such a book. It is clearly the most comprehensive book on cacti ever written...An unequalled, detailed, comprehensive, one-volume library on cactus biology that should serve as a valuable resource for anyone seriously interested in the field.

The authors state that their Primer 'is the first and not the final chapter of the learning experience.' If this is the case, then this book is a wonderful beginning! Gibson and Nobel have done a masterful job of gathering together information about the cactus family and of presenting it in a pleasant and lucid style.

Everyone with more than a passing interest in the cacti will want this book. It is a pleasure to read, highly informative on a wealth of subjects, and profusely illustrated...A marvelous example of how all the components of scientific inquiry fit together to illuminate the biology of a fascinating evolutionary lineage. It deserves a wide readership.

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Edition: Reprint 2014
Audience: Professional and scholarly;