Florida Semaphore Cactus: Critically Endangered Consolea Corallicola

Critically endangered.
The critically endangered Semaphore Cactus.

While visiting Big Pine Key last month I was introduced to a Florida native plant that is nearing extinction.  The Florida Semaphore Cactus is a prickly pear cactus that is only found in the Florida Keys. The cacti were being cared for at the home of a Florida Fish and Wildlife officer who received them from a local botanical garden. His intentions were to find a suitable area to repopulate the cactus. The officer explained that we were “looking at two-thirds of the world’s population of Florida Semaphore cactus”. While the plants were only in his possession for just a few days, he planned to have them transplanted within the coming week.

Hard to believe at first, but after some quick research his claims of the disappearance of this plant are most certainly true. Residential and commercial development throughout the Lower Keys appears to be the largest threat of the semaphore cactus. However the introduction of the exotic cactus moth has greatly impacted the population as well as its larvae feeds on the cactus. Sea level rise also appears to be encroaching upon the habitat of the cactus.

With the FWC officer transplanting these plants in an undisclosed and undeveloped area in Big Pine Key, he very well may be saving this species indigenous to the Keys.

 

Read more about the semaphore cactus here.

 

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Beautiful purple needles.
Beautiful purple needles.
This is 2/3 of the worlds population.
This is 2/3 of the world’s population.
The Semaphore Cactus.
The Semaphore Cactus.

 

What do you think?