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Cactaceae Juss., Gen. Pl.: 310. 1789 sec. APG IV [Angiosperm Phylogeny Group] 20161 wfo-7000000098
      Nametype: Cactus L., nom. rej.
  • 1. APG IV [Angiosperm Phylogeny Group] 2016: APG IV: An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants. – Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 181(1): 1-20. 10.1111/boj.12385


The Cactaceae checklist presented here follows phylogeny-based taxonomic treatments as far as they are available. When phylogeny-based information is lacking, appropriate classical or conventional taxonomic works serve as the basis. This approach ensures a comprehensive treatment of the entire Cactaceae, consistently attributing taxonomic concepts at the species and infraspecific levels.

The general approach to compiling this checklist and the editorial guidelines are detailed in the main article (citation below).

The checklist is continuously updated according to newly published results of phylogenetic and taxonomic research. Updates focus on enriching the dataset with supplementary taxonomic information, including morphological descriptions, identification keys, distribution data, as well as additional nomenclatural details, especially types and type image links.

Checklist structure and statistics

The checklist is divided into the 'Core checklist' and five 'pseudotaxa,' each serving a distinct purpose. The core checklist comprises accepted genera, species, and infraspecies. Subfamilies, tribes, and infrageneric groups are presently not included in the checklist, except in cases of homotypic synonymy.

The pseudotaxa contain names that were not included in the core checklist for various reasons. This approach allows including these names in the database, facilitate their discovery in searches, and indicate their special status. The pseudotaxa categories include:

Hybrids: names of artificial hybrids and nothogenera. No attempt was made to compile all effectively published hybrid or horticultural names. Natural hybrids are included in the core checklist, though this still inconsistent, some artificial hybrids may be listed in the core checklist if their artificial nature was not evident.

Names of uncertain application, including nomina nuda

Unplaced taxa or incertae sedis: species or subspecies that should probably be accepted, but can’t be reliably placed into an accepted genus.

Unresolved names: all further names that could not be assigned to one of the preceding categories

Excluded names: Names that could be positively excluded for a certain reason, which is given with the name.

Statistics (as of January 2022)

Total names treated: 22.300+
Accepted genera: 151
Accepted species: 1.855
Hybrid species: 91
Heterotypic infraspecific taxa: 455
Infraspecific taxa carrying autonyms: 287
Synonyms and invalid designations: 17.965

Not treated in the core checklist:

Names considered of cncertain application: 388
Unresolved names (including 151 synonyms): 672
Hybrid names: 454
Excluded names: 17


Most Cactaceae species are highly modified perennial stem succulents which conserve water to survive temporary dry periods. Some two dozen species (e.g. Pereskia, Leuenbergeria, Maihuenia, Pereskiopsis and Quiabentia and Austrocylindropuntia subulata have a shrubby or tree-like habit with more or less fleshy leaves. All species of the family bear characteristic spine clusters (i.e., areoles), representing short shoots with leaves transformed into spines already at the stage of primordia. This characteristic is a true synapomorphy of the entire family.
Cacti are native to the Americas, except for the widely distributed Rhipsalis baccifera (Sol.) Stearn that also occurs in tropical Africa, Madagascar, and on islands in the Indian Ocean. Several species from different lineages have been introduced worldwide as crop plants or ornamentals and have become naturalized, and are classified as invasive aliens in several areas, including Australia, Southern Africa, and the Mediterranean.
For a long time in the past, the classification into genera and suprageneric groups was based on form characteristics of vegetative and reproductive structures, culminating in the fine-grained classifications of Backeberg (1958-1962, 1966) or Buxbaum (1962) and Endler & Buxbaum (1974). Many of the highly modified structural features are associated with the succulent life strategy (e.g., Nyffeler & al. 2008), and hence provide particular challenges in the interpretation of a classification based on purported relationships. The consensus classification initiative as reported by Hunt & Taylor (1986) and subsequent papers helped to overcome the deviating systems used in the second part of the 20th century, but also fell short in not being based on further and expanded data sets of comparative data for reconstructing relative relationships.
However, the molecular phylogenetic studies (see the introduction and Nyffeler & Eggli 2010) provide the basis for an increasingly stable backbone classification for major suprageneric clades. At the same time, unexpected novel placements are suggested by such studies for several species or genera, such as Blossfeldia (Nyffeler 2002) or Lymanbensonia (Korotkova & al. 2010), while long-established genera, such as Echinocactus and Ferocactus, Mammillaria and Opuntiahave been found to be polyphyletic (Bárcenas & al. 2011; Griffith & Porter 2009; Hernández-Hernández & al. 2011. To use these findings for updating the generic classification of the family is a pronounced challenge.A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M

Taxon standing

We use the extent of the phylogenetic knowledge as the main indicator of taxonomic stability of genera, using 5 categories:

(A) The genus is monophyletic based on a complete or very comprehensive phylogenetic study and a phylogeny-based taxonomic synopsis was published, usually along with the phylogenetic study or in a follow-up taxonomic paper by the same authors.

(B) The genus is monophyletic, phylogenetic studies supports the clade based on a sufficiently dense or even complete sampling, or support a monotypic genus as a distinct lineage, but do not provide a new taxonomic treatment at the species level. In many cases older classical taxonomic synopses or a monographic treatment exists for these genera providing a reliable assessment of the species included.

(C) The genus is probably monophyletic, but only some of the species were sampled in phylogenetic studies, too few to reliably establish its monophyly.

(D) The genus is poly -or paraphyletic or nested in another genus.

(E) No assessment of monophyly so far yet possible, either only a few species were sampled, or no phylogenetic study has been conducted so far.


Contributions of authors

Data compilation editors:

Nadja Korotkova (principal editor and compiler)

Walter G. Berendsohn (name matching with contributed datasets, nomenclatural issues, data quality control, generation of formatted documents from output from the EDIT Platform, editorial guidelines)

Taxonomic information:

David Aquino: Epithelantha, Kadenicarpus, Rapicactus, Turbinicarpus

Salvador Arias: Acanthocereus, Aporocactus, Astrophytum, Bergerocactus, Cephalocereus, Disocactus, Marshallocereus, Nyctocereus, Pachycereus, Peniocereus, Pereskiopsis, Stenocereus

Urs Eggli: Aylostera, Blossfeldia, Rebutia, Weingartia, partial quality control of unresolved names

Alan R. Franck: Estevesia, Harrisia, Pilosocereus, Xiquexique

Carlos Gómez-Hinostrosa & Héctor M. Hernández: Acanthocereus, Acharagma, Ariocarpus, Astrophytum, Aztekium, Bergerocactus, Cumarinia, Cylindropuntia,
Echinocactus, Escontria, Grusonia, Lophophora, Mammillaria, Melocactus, Myrtillocactus, Neolloydia,
Opuntia p.p., Peniocereus, Sclerocactus, Thelocactus, Turbinicarpus

Pablo C. Guerrero: Eriosyce, Eulychnia, Copiapoa, Rimacactus

Matias Köhler: Airampoa, Brasiliopuntia, Opuntia p.p., Salmonopuntia, Tacinga

Nadja Korotkova: Deamia, Disocactus, Epiphyllum, Hatiora, Kimnachia, Lepismium, Lymanbensonia, Pfeiffera, Pseudorhipsalis, Rhipsalidopsis, Rhipsalis, Schlumbergera, Selenicereus, Weberocereus

Lucas C. Majure: Cochemiea, Consolea, Coryphantha, Cylindropuntia, Cumarinia, Grusonia, Kroenleinia, Leptocereus, Melocactus, Micropuntia, Opuntia p.p.

Detlev Metzing: Frailea, Gymnocalycium, various other names

Reto Nyffeler: Parodia

Daniel Sánchez: Echinocereus

Boris O. Schlumpberger: Acanthocalycium, Echinopsis, Leucostele, Lobivia, Setiechinopsis, Soehrensia, Reicheocactus, Trichocereus


Andreas Müller, Katja Luther, Andreas Kohlbecker and Patrick Plitzner: Technical support for the EDIT Platform for Cybertaxonomy

Patricia Hernández-Ledesma and Sabine von Mering: former coordinators of the Caryophylalles Network

Inan Erdogan and Mareike Liese: help with data entry

RBG Kew: providing the at that time unpublished dataset of the World Checklist of Vascular Plants

Nicholas Turland and Eckhard von Raab-Straube: advice on nomenclature

William Ulate, World Flora Online team at Missouri Botanical Garden: facilitating the WFO backbone data for Cactaceae

Holger Rudzinski: Various corrections for Mammillaria



Korotkova N., Aquino D., Arias S., Eggli U., Franck A., Gómez-Hinostrosa C., Guerrero P. C., Hernández H. M., Kohlbecker A., Köhler M., Luther K., Majure L. C., Müller A., Metzing D., Nyffeler R., Sánchez D., Schlumpberger B. & Berendsohn W. G. 2021: Cactaceae at – a dynamic online species-level taxonomic backbone for the family. – Willdenowia 51: 251 – 271. DOI: 10.3372/wi.51.51208

For information added after this publication, please use the following format:

Sánchez, D., Aquino, D., Arias, S. & Korotkova, N. 2021+: Updates to the Cactaceae species-level checklist for the genera Coryphantha, Escobaria, and Pelecyphora. – Published online at Accessed on [access date].


A. Backeberg, C. 1958–1962: Cactaceae. – Jena: VEB Gustav Fischer
B. Backeberg, C. 1966: Das Kakteenlexikon. – Jena: VEB Gustav Fischer
C. Buxbaum, F. 1962: Das phylogenetische System der Cactaceae, pp. 7-18. – In: Krainz, H., Die Kakteen Lief. 21. – Stuttgart: Franckh'she Verlagshandlung
D. Bárcenas, R.T., Yesson, C. & Hawkins, J. A. 2011: Molecular systematics of the Cactaceae. – Cladistics 27: 1-20.
E. Endler, J. & Buxbaum, F. 1974: Die Pflanzenfamilie der Kakteen, ed. 3. – Minden: Lehrmeister-Bücherei
F. Griffith, M.P. & Porter, J.M. 2009: Phylogeny of Opuntioideae (Cactaceae). – International Journal of Plant Sciences 170(1): 107-116.
G. Hernández-Hernández, T., Hernández, H.M., De-Nova, J. A., Puente, R., Eguiarte, L.E. & Magallón, S. 2011: Phylogenetic relationships and evolution of growth form in Cactaceae (Caryophyllales, Eudicotyledoneae). – American Journal of Botany 98(1): 44-61.
H. Hernández-Ledesma, P., Berendsohn, W. G., Borsch, T., von Mering, S., Akhani, H., Arias, S., Castañeda-Noa, I., Eggli, U., Eriksson, R., Flores-Olvera, H., Fuentes-Bazán, S., Kadereit, G., Klak, C., Korotkova, N., Nyffeler, R., Ocampo, G. & Ochoterena, H. 2015: A taxonomic backbone for the global synthesis of species diversity in the angiosperm order Caryophyllales. – Willdenowia 45(3): 281-383.
I. Hunt, D.R. & Taylor, N. P. 1986: The genera of the Cactaceae: towards an new consensus. – Bradleya 4: 65-78
J. Korotkova, N., Zabel, L., Quandt, D. & Barthlott, W. 2010: A phylogenetic analysis of Pfeiffera and the reinstatement of Lymanbensonia as an independently evolved lineage of epiphytic Cactaceae within a new tribe Lymanbensonieae. – Willdenowia 40: 151-172.
K. Nyffeler, R. & Eggli, U. 2010: A farewell to dated ideas and concepts – molecular phylogenetics and a revised suprageneric classification of the family Cactaceae. – Schumannia 6: 109-151
L. Nyffeler, R. 2002: Phylogenetic relationships in the cactus family (Cactaceae) based on evidence from trnK/matK and trnL-trnF sequences. – American Journal of Botany 89(2): 312-326
M. Nyffeler, R., Eggli, U., Ogburn, M. & Edwards, E. 2008: Variations on a theme: repeated evolution of succulent life forms in the Portulacineae (Caryophyllales). – Haseltonia 14: 26-36.