≪ Blueberry cactus≫, referring to the fruits of the genus, very similar to blueberries and edible.
A genus of shrubby to treelike plants, strongly branched, usually wider than high when adult, never exceeding 5 m in height, with stems more or less erect, few angled (5-8), wide ribs, with areoles bearing somewhat similar, subulate, sometimes flattened spines. Cuticle very thick, more or less waxy.
Flowers diurnal, rather small, remaining open during night, sometimes self-fertile, grouped, with a short floral tube, rotate, white to greenish-white or creamy yellow, fragrant, pollinated by bees and hummingbirds during day (Caнothorax lucifer, Cynanthus latirostris, and probably Archilochus colubris, Colibri thalassinus, Eugenes fulgens, Hylocharis leucotis, Lampornis demendae, Selasphorus platycercus, S. rufus and S. sasin), as well as bats [Anoura geoffroyi, Choeronycteris mexicana, Glossophaga soricina, Leptonycteris curasoae, L. nivalis and L. sanbornii) and moths (Stenaspilates apapinaria) during night. Fruits small, spheroid much like blueberries, reddish, waxy purple to purplish-violet, edible, flavor somewhat reminiscent of kiwi fruit, indehiscent (drying when ripe). Seeds tiny black brown, matt, with light relief, ruminate. Dispersal of seeds ornithophilous (ornithochory), saurophilous (saurochory) and to a lesser extent, chiropterophilous (chiropterochory).
The genus Myrtillocactus grows in deserts, also in deciduous tropical woodlands, amid mezquites (Prosopis juliflora, P. laevigata, Senna wislizeni), on calcareous soils, rocky hills, in a xerophilous scrub (matorral), often forming characteristic groves, from 20 m up to 2500 m in altitude, and forms a part of true plant communities composed of cacti and other succulents.
Guatemala (El Progreso, Huehuetenango, Quiche), Mexico (Aguascalientes, Baja-California, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Morelos, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Zacatecas).
Currently 4 recognised species:
– Myrtillocactus cochal* (Orcutt) Britton & Rose 1909
– Myrtillocactus eichlamii Britton & Rose 1920
– Myrtillocactus geometrizans* (Mart.) DC. 1897
– Myrtillocactus schenckii* (J.A.Purpus) Britton & Rose 1909