- For "Cactus mistletoe", see Tristerix aphylla, a Chilean species of mistletoe, whose preferred hosts are two species of cactus.
(J.S. Mueller) Stearn
Rhipsalis baccifera, commonly known as the Mistletoe Cactus, is an epiphytic cactus which originates from Central and South America, the Caribbean and Florida. It is also spread throughout the tropics of Africa and into Sri Lanka. This is the only cactus species naturally occurring outside the New World. One theory is that it was introduced to the Old World by migratory birds, long enough ago for the Old World populations to be regarded as distinct subspecies. The alternative theory is that the species initially crossed the Atlantic on European ships trading between South America and Africa, after which birds may have spread it more widely.
The species shows considerable polymorphism and can be divided into numerous subspecies. Mesoamerican specimens are usually tetraploid and South American specimens are diploid. The genera currently assigned to the tribe Rhipsalideae (which include Hatiora, Lepismium and Schlumbergera in addition to Rhipsalis) were subject to considerable confusion and disagreement prior to the clarification by Wilhelm Barthlott and Nigel Taylor in 1995.
The naming of the species is confusing and a very large number of obsolete names (synonyms) exist. These include:
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- Anderson 2001, p. 611.
- Cota-Sánchez, J. Hugo & Bomfim-Patrício, Márcia C. (2010), "Seed morphology, polyploidy and the evolutionary history of the epiphytic cactus Rhipsalis baccifera (Cactaceae)", Polibotanica 29: 107–129, retrieved 2012-05-15, pp. 117–118
- Anderson, Edward F. (2001), The Cactus Family, Pentland, Oregon: Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-498-5, pp. 102, 375
- "Rhipsalis baccifera (J.S. Mueller) Stearn in Cact. J. (Croydon) 7: 107 (1939)". Rhipsalis, Lepismium, Hatiora, Schlumbergera. Retrieved 2006-09-26.
- "Mistletoe Cactus". Desert-Tropicals.com. Retrieved 2006-09-26.
- Maxwell, Phil (May 1999). "The Rhipsalis Riddle - or the day the cacti came down from the trees: Part 3". New Zealand Cactus and Succulent Journal.