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Melocactus acipinosus 1.jpg
M. acipinosus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Genus: Melocactus
Link & Otto
Type species
Melocactus communis (now Melocactus intortus)

See text.

Melocactus (melon cactus), also known as the Turk's cap cactus, is a genus of cactus with about 30–40 species. They are native to the Caribbean, western Mexico through Central America to northern South America, with some species along the Andes down to southern Peru, and a concentration of species in northeastern Brazil.[1]

The first species was named by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, as Cactus melocactus. When the genus was separated from Cactus, the pre-Linnaean name Melocactus was used. Acting on the principle of priority, in 1922 Nathaniel Britton and Joseph Rose resurrected Linnaeus' Cactus. However, the 1905 Vienna botanical congress had already rejected the name Cactus, so this name was not available, and Melocactus Link & Otto is the correct genus name.[1]

Melocactus plant in fruit.
A Melocactus plant in fruit.

Mature plants are easily recognizable by their cephalium, a wool- and bristle-coated structure at the apex of the plant, containing a mass of areoles from which the small flowers grow.[1] The red, wool-coated cephalium, said to resemble the fez worn by Turkish men during the late Ottoman Empire, gives the plant one of its common names, Turk's cap cactus. It gives its name to the Turks Islands, part of the Turks and Caicos Islands.[2][3]

The fruits of Melocactus are pink and resemble the shape of pepper fruits. The fruits of this genus are edible, and in the wild they are frequently dispersed by lizards and birds.[4]


As of February 2020, Plants of the World Online accepted the following species:[5]

Image Scientific name Distribution
Melocactus andinus - Flickr - Juan Ignacio 1976.jpg Melocactus andinus R.Gruber ex N.P.Taylor Venezuela
Melocactus azureus 1e.jpg Melocactus azureus Buining & Brederoo Brazil (Bahia)
Melocactus acipinosus 1.jpg Melocactus bahiensis (Britton & Rose) Luetzelb. Brazil (Bahia)
Melocactus bellavistensis 2019-04-14 05.jpg Melocactus bellavistensis Rauh & Backeb. Ecuador and Peru
Melocactus braunii Esteves.jpg Melocactus braunii Esteves Brazil (Bahia)
Melocactus brederooianus Buining Brazil (Bahia)
Melocactus broadwayi (Britton & Rose) A.Berger Trinidad & Tobago
Melocactus caroli-linnaei.jpg Melocactus caroli-linnaei N.P.Taylor Jamaica.
Melocactus conoideus 2.jpg Melocactus conoideus Buining & Brederoo Brazil.
Melocactus curvispinus Pfeiff. Mexico, Central America, Colombia and western Venezuela
Melocactus deinacanthus 1e.jpg Melocactus deinacanthus Buining & Brederoo Brazil.
Melocactus ernestii in habitat.jpg Melocactus ernestii Vaupel Brazil (Bahia and Minas Gerais.)
Melocactus estevesii P.J.Braun.jpg Melocactus estevesii P.J.Braun Brazil (Roraima)
Melocactus glaucescens flowering.jpg Melocactus glaucescens Buining & Brederoo Brazil.
Melocactus harlowii.jpg Melocactus harlowii (Britton & Rose) Vaupel Cuba
Melocactus heimenii spec nov IMG 2452a StO 2018-15.jpg Melocactus inconcinnus Buining & Brederoo Brazil (S. Bahia).
仙人掌-彩雲 Melocactus intortus -新加坡濱海灣花園 Gardens by the Bay, Singapore- (24529242269).jpg Melocactus intortus (Mill.) Urb. Bahamas to Turks-Caicos Islands, Puerto Rico to Lesser Antilles.
Melocactus lanssensianus.jpg Melocactus lanssensianus P.J.Braun Brazil (Pernambuco).
Melocactus lemairei (Monv. ex Lem.) Miq. ex Lem. NW. Haiti, W. & S. Dominican Republic.
Melocactus warasii.jpg Melocactus levitestatus Buining & Brederoo Central & E. Brazil.
Melocactus macracanthos subsp. macracanthos (2447780534).jpg Melocactus macracanthos (Salm-Dyck) Link & Otto Aruba to Netherlands Antilles.
Melocactus matanzanus.jpg Melocactus matanzanus León Cuba.
Melocactus mazelianus Ríha E. Colombia to Venezuela.
Melocactus neoviridescens Guiggi NE. Brazil.
Melocactus guaricencis.jpg Melocactus neryi K.Schum. Venezuela to N. Brazil.
Melocactus oreas Miquel.jpg Melocactus oreas Miq. Brazil.
Melocactus pachyacanthus.JPG Melocactus pachyacanthus Buining & Brederoo Brazil.
Melocactus paucispinus Heimen & R.J.Paul Bahia Brasil.JPG Melocactus paucispinus Heimen & R.J.Paul SE. Haiti to SW. Dominican Republic.
Melocactus peruvianus 1e.jpg Melocactus peruvianus Vaupel Peru.
Melocactus pruinosus Werderm. Brazil (Bahia, Minas Gerais).
Melocactus salvadorensis subspec. oliveirae P.J.Braun.jpg Melocactus salvadorensis Werderm. Brazil (S. Bahia, Minas Gerais).
Melocactus schatzlii ssp schatzlii pm.JPG Melocactus schatzlii H.Till & R.Gruber Venezuela (Mérida).
Melocactus sergipensis at type locality.jpg Melocactus sergipensis N.P.Taylor & Meiado Brazil (Sergipe).
Melocactus smithii (Alexander) Buining ex G.D.Rowley.jpg Melocactus smithii (Alexander) Buining ex G.D.Rowley Brazil.
Melocactus stramineus Suringar Aruba.
Melocactus violaceus ssp. natalensis P.J.Braun & Esteves Rio Grande do Norte Brasil.jpg Melocactus violaceus Pfeiff. NE. Brazil (to NE. Minas Gerais).
Melocactus zehntneri (Britton & Rose) Luetzelburg Rio Grande do Norte, Brasil.jpg Melocactus zehntneri (Britton & Rose) Luetzelb. NE. Brazil

Natural Hybrids[edit]

Image Scientific name Distribution
Melocactus × horridus Werderm. Brazil (Pernambuco).
Melocactus x albicephalus Buining & Brederoo Bahia Brasil.jpg Melocactus × albicephalus Buining & Brederoo Brazil (Bahia)


  1. ^ a b c Anderson, Edward F. (2001), The Cactus Family, Pentland, Oregon: Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-498-5, pages=456–467
  2. ^ [1] Archived June 9, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Coastal Lake-Sediment Records of Prehistoric Hurricane Strikes in Honduras and Turks and Caicos Islands of the Caribbean Basin" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2010-07-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ Thomson, George (2008). Melocactus: care and cultivation. p. 13.
  5. ^ "Melocactus Link & Otto". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2020-02-16.

External links[edit]