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Lophophora williamsii

Family: Cactaceae

Subfamily: Cactoideae

Tribe: Cacteae

Botanical Name: Lophophora williamsii (Lem. ex Salm-Dyck) J.M. Coult.

Extensions: N/A

First Published Description: Lemaire 1845. Published as "Echinocactus williamsii". Coulter (1894) Created the Lophophora genus and moved Echinocactus williamsii into "Lophophora williamsii". Croizat in Dessert Plant Life (1943-1945) made sense of Lophophora in a well thought out series of papers.

English Name(s): Peyote, Peyotl, Devil's Root, Dumpling Cactus, Mescal, Mescal Button, Whiskey Cactus.

Synonyms: Echinocactus williamsii, Lophophora lewinii, Lophophora echinata, Lophophora lutea.

Related Species: Lophophora williamsii var. decipiens.


Rib form: Generally fairly straight or spiral in form. Many have 5 or 8 ribs, but rib counts increase with size up to 13 ribs. While going from 5 to 8 or 8 to 13 ribs, form may appear wavy much like L. diffusa. These often "straighten" out once larger.

Max. size: With age single heads of 15 cm are possible, but takes many years.

Skin: Dull bluish green colour, sometimes a little greyish.

Areoles: Spineless and woolly.

Roots: Large tap root, as in all Lophophora. Large Lophophora williamsii may have 30cm long tap roots. Usually single taps, but may branch. Capillary roots are few and located randomly all over the main tap root.

Reproduction: Self-fertile. Lophophora williamsii will flower all year in favourable conditions. It is actually quite an aggressive flowerer, in respect to other members of the Lophophora genus. When self-fertilized fewer seeds usually form, often 0-10. When crossed with another plant seed counts *usually* go up, 5-20.

Flower Morphology: Usually located at the areole(s) in the top center of plant, sometimes flowers from the sides (rarely). Flowers are around 2cm across when open, broad funnel form tube. Scales are a green colour on back (easily seen when "buds" are emerging from the wool). Style is white in colour. Stigma lobes 3-6 (what we have seen) often at the same height as the anthers, anthers fold in to the stigma when touched, perhaps a fertilization adaptation. The ovary is naked.

Petal colour: Pink

Fruits: Fruits are a shade of pink, naked, about 1-2.5 cm long. Often take approximately 2-8 weeks to develop after fertilization in cultivation. Fruit may contain 0-20 seeds each, sometimes more on the odd occasion. [Photo]




Caespitosa: This form is a typical L.williamsii looking plant with many offsets or "babies". These will often grow new shoots from many areoles of the plant forming a large carpet or clump.

As well as the top which offsets readily, the roots also grow profusely. Most offsets from under the soils surface will put out roots. Over time the root mass can get extremely large compared to the crown, thus helping it grow much faster. This is often the fasted growing "variety" of any Lophophora in our experience.

Caespitosa variegata: Like "caespitosa", variegated caespitosa has many offsets. With this variety, the offsets have a different colour to them. This form often displays green, yellow, orange and/or pink.

Variegata: Variegated plants are plants with other colours. In cacti, variegation is usully yellow, red, pink or orange.

The photo to the right is a large variegated L. williamsii grafted to Hylocereus.

Texana: Lophophora williamsii var. texana (or texanis, texenis) is a L. williamsii from Texas. In cultivation, many of the ones being sold have a nice spiral pattern and long "hair". They are, however, just a locality.

Cristate: Cristate (AKA crest, crestate) is a very unusual form seen in many other plant families. The growing point grows in a line, instead of keeping a circular form. There are different clones around, some very large, others small with more "normal" offsets.

Chemicals found in Lophophora williamsii (Peyote)

Please note: Some chemicals may not be listed and some may or may not be toxic. Do not consume plants based on this table, it only gives a general idea of *some* of the chemicals this plant contains.

References: Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases

Kaktusy Special 2, 2005. Genus Lophophora


Plant Part



Plant: 50,000 ppm









Plant: 15-30% of total Alkaloids [Kaktusy]

7,500-15,000 ppm [Dukes and kaktusy]

Cardiovascular, CNS-Active, CNS-Depressant, Hallucinogen, Neurotoxic, Psychoactive, Psychotomimetic, Sympathomimetic, Teratogenic, Tremorigenic.


Plant: 14-17% of total Alkaloids [Kaktusy]

7,000-8,500 ppm [Dukes and kaktusy]

Related Peyote Pages


Lophophora williamsii var. caespitosa

Lophophora williamsii forma. cristate

Lophophora williamsii var. decipiens

Lophophora Identification

Lophophora Morphological Photo Checklist

Lophophora species photo identification guide

Lophophora Dichotomous Key

Lophophora variety breeding compatibility

Mass producing Lophophora williamsii to alleviate wild population strain.

Lophophora williamsii Research (offsite)

Human use & Religion

The appeal of peyote (Lophophora Williamsii) as a medicine

Peyote and the Immune system

In vitro immunopotentiating properties and tumour cell toxicity induced by Lophophora williamsii (peyote) cactus methanolic extract.

Cactus Information

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