Cacti Biology and Uses

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Ritter; H. Tacinga inamoena K. The most-mentioned species were P.


  • Use and knowledge of Cactaceae in Northeastern Brazil.
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The use values of the above species, were P. Forage was the category with the highest use value 0. Regarding versatility, P. Analysis of the use of the different plants parts of individual species, showed that P. After that, the wood received citations, fruit , marrow torch , pulp marrow and rackets cladode 97, root with 11 and the gum parenchyma with six citations. Amongst the seven native species recorded, P. Amongst the exotic species recorded, O. In the studied community, various ways of using of cacti found in the region were recorded, involving uses such as for timber or non-timber.

Below are described some usage information for each species. Cereus jamacaru is used for cooked human food or as an ingredient in candies and its fruit is consumed fresh. Its wood is used in construction, for making doors, windows, boards and laths. As part of its medicinal use, it can be used as a tea, being prepared from the root and used to treat illnesses such as rheumatism, wounds, boils, urinary infections and kidney inflammation. Pilosocereus pachycladus has its core marrow cooked or baked and is used as human food, for making candy including coconut candy, or its raw fruit is consumed.

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Opuntia ficus indica is used for several purposes, the main one being for forage. It is also used in local cuisine, for cakes, candies, juices, jellies, soups, salads, stews, risottos or cooked with rice, beans and meat.

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In the case of P. The same plant part can be made into shampoo, or its raw fruit consumed. For fodder use, the entire plant is burnt and served to animals; alternatively, it can be used in gardens as an ornamental. The types of uses recorded for Melocactus sp. The fruit of T. Opuntia stricta is used in the composition of hedges fences , and its fruit serves as human food.

It is also burnt and used to feed animals, and used as an ornamental in gardens and yards. Tacinga inamoena is only used as fodder, being burned or cut down and offered to animals, or fed as a fresh fruit. A comparison of the information provided by men and women showed that the most significant categories of fodder, feeding and building were the same for both groups.

The diversity of species and their uses registered in the present study were also noted in other studies, both in Brazil [ 14 , 15 , 43 — 45 ] and in other countries, such as Cuba [ 23 ]. Amongst these uses were those involving fodder and human food. However, the Cuban study diverged regarding the main recognized categories in the present study. In the Cuban community, the most obvious categories were medicinal and ornamental, with food being in third position, which unified uses for humans and animals [ 23 ].

However, a more detailed analysis is necessary in this context, because the category food is relevant in Cabaceiras as the use of cacti for food plays an important role in the cultural mentality of people from semi-arid areas, even if using cacti for food is becoming less important, due to the fact that the local population is undergoing a social economic change as a result of governmental assistance, e.

The use of cacti as a fodder plant is common, mainly during times of water shortage, when other forage species, such as those of the Poaceae family, are scarce, and cacti assume the main role in feeding the local flocks.

As well as in the present study, the use of these plants as fodder plants mainly during drought periods, has also been noted by other researchers in Brazil [ 14 , 26 , 35 , 36 , 43 , 44 , 46 ]. Among fodder species, O. The medical potential shown by cacti is mentioned in other studies, which demonstrate their various uses in the treatment of human illnesses [ 15 , 47 — 52 ]. In terms of veterinarian use, only a single species, P.

Regarding the use of the cacti in domestic or rural constructions, the present study found considerable diverse uses, such as in the construction of roofs laths , or to make gates. A further lumber category that was registered in Cabaceiras was technology, for example, in the manufacture of handles of tools. However this use is little recognized in rural communities from semi-arid regions.

Other uses recorded included the use of roots of P. The prominence of certain species might result from their high use value, as the case of P. Other researchers recorded uses for this species, thus confirming the findings in Cabaceiras, by Albuquerque et al. In Cuba, other cactus species with a similar use were recorded, such as Cereus hexagonous , O. Other studies have also listed uses for P. This alimentary potential also was noted by Andrade et al.

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Other interesting aspects of certain cacti are their use as bio-indicators of natural phenomena, such as the rainy season. If specific questions on such phenomena had been asked, other responses might have been elicited, however, only one informant cited the use of cacti as bio-indicators, as can be seen from this citation:. The use of cacti as indicators has been recorded in other studies for C. On average, men attributed greater use values and use categories to species, than women, even though the attributed values strongly correlated.

This might be explained by the fact that men are more used to handling cacti, as they mainly cite uses related to animal feeding fodder plants than any other purpose, as found in the present study. Women were more familiar with uses for nutrition and personal hygiene, e. In semi-arid regions, there is a division of labour, with men being responsible for the cultivation of food and women for preparing it, as reported by Cavalcanti Filho [ 35 ].

This is shown by the following citations from informants:. When analysing this division of labour and knowledge between men and women, taking into consideration all locally-found vegetable species, the literature has shown that there is a tendency for men to be more familiar with lumber uses and the women with non-lumber uses [ 56 — 59 ]. This was also observed in Cabaceiras, where men mentioned many lumber uses for cacti, such as building roofs laths and for tool handles e.

However, Lucena et al. Matavele and Habib [ 60 ] found a similar knowledge for men and women, mainly regarding the use of medicinal plants. This same situation was found in the present study, since men and women attributed the same values of use to the medicinal category.

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Figueredo et al. Exotic species as Opuntia ficus indica are increasingly being used by agriculturists as a fodder plant, as a new source of income within the community, and enabling the conservation of native species, such as Pilosocereus gounellei and Pilosocereus pachycladus.


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  5. The very high correlation of the use value between men and women demonstrates an equal knowledge for both sexes. In view of the demonstrated importance of cacti in this semi-arid region and of the richness of information acquired in the present study, it is suggested that similar studies should be performed to monitor knowledge within other communities and to allow a comparison with this study, as well as to consider the increased use and handling of cacti possibly via plantations, or through asexual propagation that would recognize the importance of these species in drought periods.

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    Fortaleza: Banco do Nordeste do Brasil. Edited by: de Janeiro R. Madgwick W: Cacti and other succulents. Wallace RS: Molecular systematic study of the cactaceae: using chloroplast DNA variation to elucidate cactus phylogeny. Revista Caatinga.

    Cacti: Biology and Uses

    Revista Brasileira de Plantas Medicinais. Cruz M, Casas A: Morphological variation and reproductive biology of polaskia chende cactaceae under domestication in Central Mexico. Journal Arid Environment. Generic Resources and Crop Evolution. Economic Botany.