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THE LOPHOPHORA WILLIAMSII, CACTUS OF DREAMS, IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION


Focus on the situation of Lophophora williamsii ("peyote"), a Mexican cactus now seriously endangered.

by: SeedsCactus.com17/04/2013

It seems that we will soon say goodbye to "peyote", the famous shrunken and shriveled cactus, which has gladdened the days (and most nights) of entire generations of European tourists, both young and old. In the 60s the frantic search of the plants in their natural habitat, aimed at consummation, gave writers and artists, fleeing away from the reality, hallucinations and visions: in fact they are rich of mescaline, a natural drug. But according to an article published by El Universal of Mexico City, the "Lophophora williamsii" (scientific name) would be on the way to extinction: to find the cactus in the desert areas of the country would become now extremely difficult.

Got famous by the books of the anthropologist and writer Castaneda, thanks to the social situation of those years, the plant has become the symbol of abstraction in the collective imagination, freedom and carefree. Singular, distinctive and almost unique in its genre, the peyote grows very slowly and gets its maturity after 20 years; the looting carried out by humans (and especially the bad habit of weeding out the whole plant rather than cut it to allow the regeneration) have heavily reduced the size of the population.

In addition to the obvious damage to biodiversity and to the tourist flows towards central America, what is most worrying is the threat to the culture of the Huicholes, Indians that have been using the peyote as a sacred element and therapeutic for thousands of years. In the past they used plant extracts as an analgesic against toothache and as a cure for rheumatism and asthma; today, in their religious ceremonies, the hallucinations induced by the consumption of peyote channeling and facilitate communication with their Gods, and every year shamans are forced to look for them by walking several hundred miles in the desert. So, the risk is not only for the annual renewal of the sacred rites, but also the ability to hand them down to new generations.

 

Lophophora williamsii

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