Prickly and in Peril – 31% Cacti Species Threatened with Extinction

You may have won one at the funfair as a child, but for 31% of cactus species, survival is much more of a roller coaster. The first comprehensive, global assessment of 1,480 cactus species was published by the IUCN this week, showing that nearly one-third were threatened with extinction. Why? This is primarily due to the illegal trade of live plants and seeds for horticulture and private collections, and unsustainable harvesting. Puts a rather sinister spin on that fairground cactus, doesn’t it?

Vulnerable listed Ferocactus tiburonensis. Source:

Cacti fill a vital function in arid ecosystems; providing food and water to a large number of animals in an environment where both of these resources are very scarce. Because of their hardiness, it was likely they were assumed to not be highly threatened. But hardiness does not protect against illegal trade – and neither do spines.

On hearing the news, we were keen to check out what our National Red List database says about cacti, and here it is: we currently have 512 assessments in our database for cactus species. The vast majority of these assessments are from the South American countries of Peru, Brazil, and Chile. Of the 176 species and subspecies of cacti listed on the National Red List of Peru, a staggering 170 were listed as threatened. In Brazil, this was 77 out of 138 species. In Chile, 75 species out of the 83 assessed were threatened. To summarise; a disturbing 81% of cacti species recorded in these South American countries were threatened with extinction.

So all in all, the picture isn’t rosy. Unfortunately, we don’t know the national status of cacti for many countries in South and Central America, either because we are as yet unaware of existing national red lists, or because cactus species have not yet been assessed at the national level. If you happen to know of any National Red Lists, cactus-related or otherwise, we would love to hear from you

Check out our searchable database and interactive maps on the homepage to find out which assessments we already hold in our database, which National Red Lists we already know about, and those we will be including in our database very soon.


  1. Do you mind if I quote a few off your articles as long as I provide credit
    and sources back too your webpage? My blog site is iin the exact same area of interest ass yoirs and my users would definitely benefit from a lot oof thhe infvormation you provide here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you.
    Appreciate it!
    ilmu akuntansi adalah

  2. Monni Bohm

    No problem 🙂