Rhipsalis baccifera

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For "Cactus mistletoe", see Tristerix aphylla, a Chilean species of mistletoe, whose preferred hosts are two species of cactus.
Rhipsalis baccifera
Rhipsalis baccifera 01 ies.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Genus: Rhipsalis
Species: R. baccifera
Binomial name
Rhipsalis baccifera
(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.[1] The alternative theory is that the species initially crossed the Atlantic Ocean on European ships trading between South America and Africa, after which birds may have spread it more widely.[2]


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.[3]


The naming of the species is confusing, and a very large number of obsolete names (synonyms) exist. These include:[citation needed]

  • Cactus caripensis
  • Cactus fasciculatus
  • Cactus pendulus
  • Cassytha baccifera
  • Cassytha filiformis
  • Hariota fasciculata
  • Rhipsalis baccifera subsp. fasciculata
  • Rhipsalis baccifera subsp. rhodocarpa
  • Rhipsalis bartlettii
  • Rhipsalis caripensis
  • Rhipsalis cassutha
  • Rhipsalis cassuthopsis
  • Rhipsalis cassytha var. rhodocarpa
  • Rhipsalis cassythoides
  • Rhipsalis dichotoma
  • Rhipsalis fasciculata
  • Rhipsalis heptagona
  • Rhipsalis hookeriana
  • Rhipsalis hylaea
  • Rhipsalis madagascariensis
  • Rhipsalis mesembryanthoides
  • Rhipsalis minutiflora
  • Rhipsalis neocassutha
  • Rhipsalis parasitica
  • Rhipsalis parasitica
  • Rhipsalis pilosa
  • Rhipsalis undulata
  • Rhipsalis suarensis
  • Rhipsalis suareziana

The genus Cassytha belongs to the family Lauraceae rather than Cactaceae, and the classification of some Rhipsalis species to the genus was an error based on the not dissimilar habit.



  1. ^ Anderson 2001, p. 611.
  2. ^ Cota-Sánchez, J. Hugo & Bomfim-Patrício, Márcia C. (2010), "Seed morphology, polyploidy and the evolutionary history of the epiphytic cactus Rhipsalis baccifera (Cactaceae)" (PDF), Polibotanica, 29: 107–129, retrieved 2012-05-15 , pp. 117–118
  3. ^ Anderson, Edward F. (2001), The Cactus Family, Pentland, Oregon: Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-498-5 , pp. 102, 375

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