Lophophora Williamsii in flower  

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Description of the Species

As a collector and grower of this fine species I found myself unsatisfied with the available information and designation of this species which drove me to researching and learning much more. This website is a compilation of what I have found, and have been cross referencing and comparing to my own plants, personally grown from seed with location data. With time I hope to expand on everything you find here along with whatever further new research that comes available such as some of the newest and best research done to date by Jaroslav Bohata. For a quick reference to the description of your favourite variety within the genus just click the "named" link here below, or continue scrolling down the page till you find what you are looking for.

Designated Species:
Lophophora Williamsii, Lophophora Diffusa, Lophophora Diffusa var. Fricii, Lophophora Diffusa var. Koehresii

A few other somewhat accepted varieties:
Lophophora Diffusa var. Fricii forma albiflora, Lophophora Williamsii var. Caespitosa, Lophophora Williamsii var. Jourdaniana, Lophophora Williamsii var. Decipiens, Lophophora Williamsii var. Lutea, Lophophora Williamsii var. Texana

Up until recent years Edward Anderson was at the forefront of research with this little plant and his studies indicated that there were two major and distinct populations of peyote representing two distinct species; that of Lophophora Williamsii and that of Lophophora Diffusa.

Anderson’s field work suggested that the genus Lophophora, especially in the north and  central regions of its distribution, were highly variable with regard to vegetative characteristics such as color, rib number, and size. This variation in numbers of ribs, color and condition of trichomes (hairs), tended to be three of the main characteristics that have delineated many past proposed species. Due to this manner of observation it seems that Anderson, possibly due to a lack of time was unable to further clarify his research and simply decided that there was insufficient evidence to further separate any of the species within the genus.

On the other hand, new peyote research done by Jaroslav Bohata shows us that we actually have four species in the genus Lophophora, and possibly more. His findings indicate that the genus Lophophora is divided into two basic groups with sufficient differences to classify them separately. The first group comprises the various forms of the species L. Williamsii, which is further subdivided into two infraspecific categories; those of the northern form and those of a southern form. The second group also comprises the various forms of the species Lophophora Diffusa consisting of L.Diffusa, L.Diffusa var. Fricii, and L.Diffusa var. Koehresii.

Bohata offers the following arguments in support of his findings:
1) The sections of Lophophora Williamsii and Diffusa differ chemically in the composition of their alkaloids. L. Diffusa are a lot closer to each other in this respect and stand out clearly from that of L. Williamsii.  L. Williamsii contains around 15-30% of the alkaloid mescaline compared with a maximum concentration of only 1.3% mescaline in L. Diffusa.  Along side of this, L. Williamsii contains 14-17% of the toxic alkaloid pellotine, whereas L. Diffusa’s content of the alkaloid can be as high as 65-88%.
2) L. Diffusa inhabits smaller isolated habitats, and L. Williamsii, on the other hand, occurs over a vast geographical area.
3) L. Koehresii has been found growing together with L. Williamsii. Equally, the habitat of L. Fricii is enclosed within the habitat of L.Williamsii. Despite of this, not a single instance of hybridization or transitional forms have been observed wherever they are found living in the same geographical area. This fact shows that the species are incompatible supporting the proposed classification. (This one point poses a question in my mind as to how one could possibly notice whether there has been a mix or not since L.Williamsii is self pollinating. What would the person be looking for in a hybrid?)
4) L. Williamsii retains the dried flower remains for much longer.
5) The species of L. Diffusa also have more numerous ribs, up to 21 of mostly undulating form, whereas L. Williamsii produces a maximum of only 13 ribs, which are generally straight. Anderson’s notes indicate that L.Williamsii grows up to 14 ribs, but I have yet to find just one plant labelled as L.Williamsii with any greater number of ribs than 13.
6) The soft tissues of L. Diffusa plants with their delicate and thin epidermis in shades of green to yellow-green contrast visibly with the hard and tough, greyish green epidermis of L. Williamsii.
7) The plants behave differently in cultivation. Most forms of L. Williamsii are relatively resistant and will tolerate grower’s occasional cultivation errors, whereas the species L. Diffusa are much more sensitive to trauma, and prone to rot.

As a final note, Bohata’s research does assert that the species L. Diffusa, L. Fricii and L. Koehresii have features in common and, as a whole, are distinct from L. Williamsii. Here below are detailed descriptions of the designated species beginning with the most popular of course, Lophophora Williamsii.


Lophophora Williamsii - Coulter 1894

Lophophora WilliamsiiCharles Lemaire named the species after Sir. C.H. Williams, the British Ambassador to the state of Bahia.

Lophophora Williamsii in comparison to the other varieties encompasses an incredibly large area. The Rio Bravo (also known as the Rio Grande) is the northern boundary along which the species spreads out as far as Laredo Texas. From this point it extends along the high plateau land of northern Mexico southwards until reaching its southern limit in the state of San Luis Potosi, and Queretaro. To the southwest, the range of L. Williamsii is limited by a region of volcanic activity, extending along the entire western edge of the Chihuahua habitat. It is found both in flat drainless basins and on steep limestone cliff faces, and is better adapted to life in the sun than any of the other varieties in the genus.  

L. Williamsii is the most potent of all mescaline containing cacti, containing upwards of 60 different alkaloids, and is the only species known to be used for hallucinogenic activity in cultural settings. L.Williamsii has many variations in growth pattern and flower color most likely due to the extreme range in altitude and is further divided typically into two different forms (northern and southern).

Peyote is described as being normally solitary while at times forming clumps to 1meter wide. The epidermis is thick and tough, often with a purplish undertone, and bears a thick layer of cutin and surface waxes. They are globose to flattened globose, somewhat firm to the touch, blue green or occasionally reddish-green, 2-6cm high, and 4-11cm in diameter. The ribs are distinct, straight or spiralled to a maximum number of 13, and there are horizontal notches formed in the ribs. Field studies have shown that rib number and variation apparently are due to localized interactions between genotype and environment. The wool is sticky, solidifying into tough crests and staying on the plant for a long time, while the roots have a rough texture.

As mentioned above, there are typically two forms of Lophophora Williamsii showing themselves to be quite distinct from each other. They are called, L. Williamsii “southern type” (with its centre at Entronque Huizache), and L. Williamsii “northern type” (centered around Saltillo, Coahuila).
The “southern type” centered around Huizache does not have a single root, but instead, individual sprouts or buds will develop their own tuberous roots, becoming quite independent of the mother plant. This is in sharp contrast to the growth strategy of the other forms.

In comparison to the so-called northern type, the L. Williamsii from Huizache is always heterogamous (wikipedia says: "In botany a plant is heterogamous when it carries at least two different types of flowers in regard to their reproductive structures, for example male and female flowers or bisexual and female flowers. Stamens and carpels are not regularly present in each flower or floret.  Moreover, they differ in the structure of the flower, whose style is longer and the white stigma is much smaller than the northern form resembling that of L.Diffusa.")

The northern form (from Saltillo, Coahuila), is extremely resistant to unfavourable conditions of drought, cold, water, pests and fungi, compared to the other varieties and is always autogamous (self pollinating). The flowers are robust with broad rounded petals of a very pale pink to white color, and bear a prominent pink midstripe, growing to between 1 and 2.2cm in diameter.  The tube is short, the style is short and white, and the stigma is fleshy and pink-tinted.  The stamens are white, reaching beyond the stigma, and the anthers are yellow to orange. Typically the plants flower from March through September, but as I have learned if the proper conditions are met the plant will flower all year long. Peyote flowers, in contrast to those of other cactus genera, have naked ovaries, or the absence of scales on the ovary wall – a character shared with the flowers of many other cacti. In Lophophora, all floral parts are borne on the perianth tube above the ovule-containing cavity.

One curious and under-reported observation is that these cacti have thigmotactic anthers. This means that as its anthers are touched they curl over, depositing their pollen. This movement can be seen by gently poking the anthers of an open Lophophora flower. Thus one of the slowest growing plants in the world makes one of the fastest plant movements.

Pollen of Lophophora is highly variable. Pollen of the Dicotyledonae tend to have three apertures. Peyote pollen varies greatly in aperture number, the northern population having 0 to 18 and the southern population 0 to 6. The grains are spherical, polyporate, with reticular exine bearing small spicules, and 40 to 53 micrometers in diameter. The carrying numbers of colpae or apertures produce about twelve different geometric shapes. Such a variety from a single species or even population is rare in flowering plants.

The pink cylindrical fruits develop and remain hidden in the apical wool for about a year (in my personal experience, given proper conditions fruits will appear in three to four months from flowering); then elongate rapidly at maturity to protrude above the woolly centre of the plant. The fruits of Lophophora are similar to those of Obregonia in that usually only the upper half contains seeds, whereas Ariocarpus fruits are completely filled with seeds. These seeds are black and verrocuse (warty), with a large, flattened, whitish hilum, about 1 mm. in diameter. 

Unlike that of L.Diffusa and its varieties, L.Williamsii has been successfully fertilized by Ariocarpus Fissuratus, L.Diffusa, Mammillaria Bocasana, M.Zeilmanniana, Strombcactus Disciformis, Turbinicarpus Pseudomacrochele, Astrophytum Asterias, and Epithelantha Micromeris.


Echinocactus williamsii Lemaire ex Salm-Dyck 1845
Anhalonium williamsii Eng., 1854
Echinocactus rapa Fischer et Meyer, 1869
Ariocarpus williamsii (Lem.) Voss., 1872
Anhalonium williamsii (Lem.) Rümpler, 1886
Lophophora lewinii Rusby, 1894
Lophophora williamsii (Lemaire ex Salm-Dyck) J. M. Coulter 1894
Lophophora lewinii (K. Schumann) Rusby 1894
Echinocactus lewinii Hennings, 1895
Mammillaria lewinii Karsten, 1895
Lophophora lewinii Thompson, 1898
Echinocactus williamsii "Hylaeid α" pelotinica Sch. K., 1898
Echinocactus williamsii "Hylaeid β" v. anhalonica K. Schumann, 1898
Echinocactus williamsii var. pelotinica Rouh., 1927
Echinocactus williamsii var. anhalonica Rouh., 1927
Lophophora caespitosa Krzgr., 1935
Lophophora texana Fric ex Roeder, 1935
Lophophora williamsii var. decipiens Croizat, 1944
Lophophora williamsii var. pentagona Croizat, 1944
Lophophora williamsii var. pluricostata Croizat, 1944
Lophophora echinata Croizat 1944
Lophophora williamsii var. texana Krzgr., 1961
Lophophora lutea var. texana (Fric ex Krzgr.) Backbg., 1961
Lophophora fricii Habermann 1974,
Lophophora jourdaniana Habermann 1975
L. williamsii var. fricii (Habermann) Grym 1997,
L. diffusa subsp. fricii (Habermann) Halda 1997

Lophophora DiffusaCroizat 1944

Lophophora Diffusa in flowerThis species is the most southern population of the genus and plants grow only in a small area along the basin of the Rio Extorax, between the settlements of Vizarron, Toliman Ninas Las Palmas, Rio Blanco and Bucareli, in the state of Queretaro.

L.Diffusa was first discovered by Dr. J. N. Rose in 1905, but the first to realize it was a new species was A.V. Fric, who described it as Ahalonium sp. Fl. Luteo Fric.

This species differs from L. Williamsii in that it is yellowish green rather than bluish green in color, having diffused ribs, not clearly defined, up to 21 in numbers. The podaria or tubercles are rarely elevated, but are broad and flat as a much softer and succulent plant, with a thin, delicate epidermis, easily bruised, and a longer flower tube, and the tissues contain little to no mescaline but mainly pellotine instead. The structure and shape of the roots are similar to the smooth and fine epidermis.

The flower color of Lophophora varies from deep reddish-pink to nearly pure white; those of L.Diffusa rarely exhibit any red pigmentation, making them usually appear white or sometimes a light yellow because of the reflection of yellow pollen from the centre of the flower. This yellow reflection has led some to name the species L. Lutea which is a misrepresentation according to the most recent studies.

The pollen of L.Diffusa has less variation than that of L.Williamsii, and it also has a much higher percentage of grains that are of the basic tricolpate (three-aperturate) type. Thus the basic dicotyledon pattern is best observed in the southern population, whereas more complex grains occur in the northern localities. Small tricolpate grains probably are more typical of the ancestors of the cacti, and the more elaborate geometric designs of L.Williamsii seem to represent greater evolutionary divergence and specialization.

The stem of L.Diffusa often grows up to15 cm. in diameter, and the fact that they grow on slate, does not allow the plants to contract and hide underground when it gets to hot. During drought, L. Diffusa will rely on the size of its stem, which explains why it also grows in clusters.

None of the Diffusa family directed species are autogamous. All species in the Diffusa family, unlike L.Williamsii are self-sterile (heterogamous)), and unable to receive pollen from L.Williamsii for fertilization, and apparently only able to mix with their own kind. Over the next couple of years I will be experimenting to see if the plant can mix with any of its other varieties or not.


Lophophora Diffusa var. Koehresii – Riha 1996

Lophophora Difffusa var. koehresii in flowerThis species is found immediately south of L.Williamsii and north of L.Diffusa, at the lagoon of Rio Verde, San Francisco, from Las Tablas to Las Palomas in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The distribution is mainly restricted to areas with alluvial soil. It was discovered by Gerhard Kohres a grower of cacti-seeds in Germany along with Professor Schreirer in 1975, and is said to be the smallest species of the Lophophora genus. Most interesting is the fact that the habitats of L. Williamsii and L. Koehresii meet and even overlap at San Rafael, but in all observations to date, no hybridization has been noted. 

L.Diffusa var. Koehresii is considered a dwarfed, depressed spherical, solitary species with a market dark green epidermis that does not sprout spontaneously in the wild. The initially distinct ribs break down in later years, sometimes almost disappearing and transforming into low podaria. The flowers are pink to cream supplemented with a prominent brown midstripe, more visible on the outside than on the inside, having unusually thin petals which are relatively large, up to 4.5 cm. The stigma is white or rosy pink in exceptional cases, and sometimes maintains a yellowish or greenish undertone.

The plant sprouts unusual small spherical fruits with the remnants of the perianth shed before ripening. The number of seeds are usually under 20 and are the largest of all Lophophora with a very characteristic testa.

Higher ratios of pellotine to mescaline give support for this species inclusion with L.Diffusa. Like L. Diffusa, L. Koehresii is also self-sterile and requires cross pollination to produce seed.

Bohata justifies his raising this taxon to the level of species because it inhabits an area separate and distinct from that of L. Diffusa, it differs from L. Diffusa in its ecological preferences, and has distinct morphological features, such as fruit shape, body color, and seed testa. In comparison to the others, it is also considerably smaller (rarely exceeding 10 cm. in diameter), and lives exclusively at the bottom of flat valleys or basins rooted in soft alluvial sediments. In fact, it is so specialized in this respect that it works for its protection by retracting into little holes in which it hides from the scorching heat during the dry periods.

There has been no offsetting observed among L. Koehresii in the wild. Adult plants typically grow to between 6 and 10 cm in diameter, while have 13 to 21 ribs that break down into separate podaria in some specimens so that the ribs are no longer discernable.

As a seedling, the plant invests most of its time developing its underground parts. The taproot is always wider in plants of two to six years of age than the above ground portion. This proportion of root to stem size is the greatest in all the species of Lophophora. 


Lophophora Diffusa var. Fricii - Habermann1974

Lophophora Diffusa var. fricii in flowerThis species was named to honour one of the greatest Czech cactus growers Alberta Vojtech Fric, who was the first to collect the plants in Mexico in 1923 and bring them to Europe as a new species. A live plant of Lophophora Fricii was discovered by Alberto Vojtech Fric during his only journey to Mexico in 1923.  He named it Anhalonium sp. fl. Rosea Fric. The specimen was taken from limestone rock formations near San Pedro in central Coahuila. Habermann later described Lophophora Fricii in the journal Kaktusy in 1974.

The habitat of L. Fricii is a relatively small area found in the mountains surrounding the Viesca Basin in south-western state of Coahuila. Four locations of L. Fricii are presently known. Two are located south of Viesca in the mountainous massif of the Sierra El Marmol. One location is north of Viesca in the sierra Zavaleta, and one is east of Viesca at the foot of the Sierra de Parras. The last known form, growing near El Amparo, is found in the plains at the foot of the hills and also higher up the hillsides as well. In the Sierra Zaveleta, the plants take advantage of the favourable micro-climate of ravines and dry watercourses, coming down to the very bottom of the hills. Although the habitats of L.Fricii and L.Williamsii mix in this area, nobody has ever found evidence of the two species merging in the wild.

L.Fricii has been found to colonize rock crevices, and make clusters of several dozen reaching widths of up to 40 cm. and heights of 15 cm, but solitary plants are also present. The epidermis of the plant is of a grayish green color. Solitary plants are rare, but the largest plant found was fully 15 cm. in diameter. Like L.Diffusa it also withstands drought by producing larger stems rather than retracting underground. Typically, the habitats of L. Fricii are composed of limestone subsoil and stiff clayey substrates.

L. Fricii is described as a flattened spherical species of solitary to normally clustering growth forms, having a gray-green epidermis. The numerous ribs (up to 21) are inconspicuous similar to L.Diffusa. The flowers vary from nearly white to carmine-red flowers (naturally occurring populations do not always bear carmine red flowers, but often are pale pink like L.Williamsii and commonly a dark shade of pink). The seeds are similar to those of L. Williamsii at first sight, but differ in the shape of the hilum, and texture of the testa. The size of the stem will be as large as 15 cm. in older plants.

As a final note, L.Fricii and L.Diffusa bear similar concentrations of mescaline to pellotine even though they are separated by about 400 miles.


Lophophora Diffusa var. Fricii forma albiflora

L.Diffusa var. fricii froma albiflora in flowerThis white flowering variety of L. Fricii is known for having a peculiar yellowish epidermis, and can be found southwest of Viesca growing more or less solitary and running up open slopes.




Lophophora Williamsii var. Caespitosa -

L.W. var. caespitosaThe appearance of Lophophora Williamsii varies widely, and in some cases the plants occur as single headed individuals, while in others they become caespitose, forming dense clumps up to two meters across with hundreds of heads. Plants in Texas and other areas do not seem to form large clumps as often as those in the state of San Luis Potosi, but plants with several pups can arise as the result of harvesting heads for medicinal use, injury by grazing animals or other factors.

Some say that nothing found about this plant indicates it to be a regularly occurring variation with its own distinct population. Due to this it is still considered to be a simple cultivar of plants having a higher propensity to tiller readily, and simply considered a hybrid cultivar. In all fairness though, there has been a newly discovered location near La Perdida (which is the location provided in collection data for seeds I have ordered and planted) in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico that contains plants similar to this cultivar.

Lophophora Williamsii var. Caespitosa five month old seedlingsThe caespitose or several-headed condition of the peyote cactus apparently occurs through the activation of advantageous buds that appear on the tuberous part of the root-stem axis below the crown. These buds can be easily scene on seedlings I have grown from the location provided above and is depicted here to the left. Note! The seedlings are five months old and about 1 cm in diameter but shooting buds none the less.

Some people might think that there shouldn’t be a separate classification for this variety since many of the Lophophora forms will develop pups over the years. I have included it here because over the year I have planted around four thousand Lophophora seeds of most known varieties, and I have not scene a single seedling tiller (although I have seen three to four year old plants grow pups). Yet ever since I have ordered seeds of the caespitose variety from La Perdida all such seedlings have immediately began growing clusters within weeks of showing themselves. Is that enough to consider it a distinct species? Only the credited botanists are really qualified to say is what I am told.

Mescaline to Pellotine concentrations for Caespitosa varieties are similar and consistent to those of L.Williamsii.

Lophophora Williamsii var. Jourdaniana Habermann 1975

L.W. var. jourdaniana in flowerOriginally described as having violet red flowers, and an inability to be fertilized by L.Diffusa, L.Fricii or L.Williamsii and its varieties. The plant has apparently been crossed successfully by a Russian botanist by the name of Serge Batov, but not successfully done by anyone else.

No occurrence of this variety is known in nature, and no features, including chemical analysis support Lophophora Jourdaniana being anything other than an odd variant of L.Williamsii, or possibly a cultivation hybrid. Some people propose that L. Jourdaniana may perhaps be a hybrid between Lophophora Williamsii and Lophophora Diffusa var. Fricii.

The flowers of Lophophora Jourdaniana are frequently cleistogame (small, unopened and self pollinating). Apparently it is not possible to fertilize L. Jourdaniana with the pollen of L. Williamsii, nor with the pollen of L. Diffusa or L. Fricii, which is something I will be experimenting with over the next couple of years.

Some sources suggest that this species contains some mescaline, but at a much lower concentration than L. Williamsii, while others say it doesn't contain the alkaloid at all, because this plant is more related to the Diffusa family than Williamsii. There are two ways of finding out, but I think the best would be proper DNA testing. Let's hope someone of authority is on that.


Lophophora Williamsii var. Decipiens Croizat

L.W. var. decipiens in flowerOriginally described by Leon Croizat. L. Decipiens can be found near Torreon, and El Ampero, in the state of Coahuila Mexico on the top of surrounding high rocky peaks, although there hasn't ever been found any at such a location since the mentioning of this location.

Said to be quite distinct from L.Williamsii by having a pronounceable ashy grey color and lacking noticeable rib formations. Instead, it has diamond shaped conical tubercles that are spiral in form similar to Strombocactus Disciformis, but with flowers the same as L.Williamsii.

Mescaline and Pellotine concentrations are similar to that of L.Williamsii.

Lophophora Wiliamsii var. Lutea-

This variation is said to bear distinctly yellow flowers, a yellowish down of trichomes, and to have tubercles unlike that of L.Williamsii. Anderson indicates that there is no independent growth population of this form and that the flower colorations are found sporadically in normal populations of L.Williamsii with the yellow tone simply being a reflection of pollen on brightly lit days.
Note!! This is the one variety of Lophophora that I have not been able to locate seeds for planting. I have also found notes that this species has simply been misidentified and is nothing more than L.Diffusa glistening in the sun.


Lophophora Williamsii var. Texana

L.W. var. texana in flowerThis variation also termed  L.Williamsii var. Texensis, is most often found growing solitary in the regions of the Rio Grande in southern Texas, and there is no extra special information available different from that of L.Williamsii.


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