The San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) originates in the cloudy Andes Mountains of South America. Underneath it’s spiny green skin and showy white blooms is a hallucinogenic compound used by native peoples. A 1300 B.C. stone tablet found in Peru is the earliest known depiction of the San Pedro cactus relationship with humans.
This San Pedro cactus was propagated in Arizona and brought to Florida as a beloved family member. It is living beautifully in the subtropical Flatwoods of the northern Everglades. A slow colonizer, this immigrant is unlikely to invade native ecosystems here in Florida. It’s large flowers suggest an ancient relationship with a pollinator that is forever separated and likely remaining in the Andes Mountains homeland.
Humans have been rearranging the plants and animals on Earth for millennia. Turns out we are pretty awesome at transforming landscapes as detailed in this recent publication by Dr. Nicole Boivin et al. (link below). ‘By the Late Pleistocene, humans had begun to engage in activities that have led to alterations in the distributions of a vast array of species across most, if not all, taxonomic groups.’
If we are to alter landscapes, let us do our work humbly and thoughtfully.