Mexican Murals – Get to Know Your Local Cacti – 5SBD Giveaway!

in contest •  last year 

Not too far from where I live in Mexico City, there is an unsuspecting little mural at the foot of a pedestrian bridge, leading over Avenida Constituyentes, connecting the street Gral F. Ramírez with Electrificación on the other side. I walked past it a number of times on the way to the second section of Chapultepec park, where dogs are allowed. Up until now, however, I failed to notice the imagery on this little wall.

It’s a bunch of cacti, or rather the artist’s interpretation thereof. Taking a closer look, however, I noticed that the picture is far from simply generic cacti. These are certain types of recognizable species, some of which I was already familiar with. So with Steemit on my mind, I quickly took a picture with the hopes of pinpointing their exact genus and species… 

Yeah right! Hours of intensive research later, I must admit this task is turning out way bigger and much more complex than anticipated. Given the close to 700 cactus species, and many more succulents, I quickly became overwhelmed by this task. The artistic rendering of the plants doesn’t make it any easier. So instead of pinpointing them, let me go back to a more general approach in talking about Mexican cacti.

Number 1: The Nopal

By far the most important cactus in Mexico is the nopal, or prickly pear in English. With its edible shoots (even older leaves) as well as deliciously sweet and juicy fruit called tuna in Mexico, the nopal plays an important role in traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine. Additionally, its slimy juice was used for mixing mortar and plaster in the construction of pre-colombian structures, such as the pyramids of Teotihuacan. Finally, the Aztec legend of the foundation of their capital Tenochtitlan, the precursor to Mexico City also features this famous plant: It’s where the eagle lands to eat the snake, the image preserved in today’s national emblem, displayed among other places in the center of the Mexican flag. So it is not surprising that the nopal is the most famous cactus in Mexico, and rightfully number one in my discussion of the mural.

A lesser known fact is, that there are actually a number of types of prickly pear. Wikipedia lists 22 species under the genus Opuntia, all of which are nopales in one form or another. The one in the Mexican flag, which is also the most common one for cooking is Opuntia ficus-india. Others can have smaller and longer spines, vary in colors from dark green to purple, and grow smaller of larger fruit. I can’t say with absolute certainty which one the artist tried to depict in this mural, but due to its popularity, I’d say it’s the most common one: Opuntia ficus-india.

Image Source

Number 2: The Saguaro (or another arborescent cactus)

With the second cactus on the list things become a bit less clear. Sure, while the nopal may be the most famous cactus in Mexico, the cactus that is almost stereotypical for the American Southwest is the Saguaro, or Carnegiea gigantea. Iconic for its tall stature and many arms (if mature enough), it can’t be missing from any kid’s drawing of a wild-west desert landscape. But interestingly, it is not even that common in Mexico. Occurring only in the Sonoran desert, that is mainly the states of Sonora in Mexico and Arizona in the US, with a bit of California and Baja California, most of the country doesn’t know this type of cactus.

There are, however, a number of other tree-like cacti all over Mexico. Many of these cover many different genera, including the Pachycereus pringlei, the Stenocereus thurberi and the Pilosocereus robinii. The one in the mural could be either one of these, though from looking at the images on-line, I’d say it looks most like the Stenocereus queretaroensis with its darker hue of green, numerous arms, and deep ridges along its stem.

Image Source

Number 3: The Barrel Cactus

Short and stocky, with hook-shaped spines, the barrel cactus is easily recognizable for its barrel like appearance. What I did not know until now, is that there are several types of barrel cacti, most of them in the genera Echinocactus and Ferocactus. The one depicted in this mural features many red flowers, which doesn’t make it any easier to determine the species, though I’d dare to say it might be Ferocactus wislizeni.

Image Source

Number 4: The Echeveria

Strictly speaking not even a cactus, this succulent is also quite common in Mexico. So much so, that I remember seeing it in a pot on my mother-in-law’s balcony. As she wasn’t sure about its name either, other than the vague guess that it could be some type of echeveria, I took up the challenge of identifying this plant using all the on-line sources I could muster. Hours of tedious search later, using apps such as PlantNet, as well as the Internet, the species I found most closely resembling it is the Echeveria nodulosa. Though I’m still not 100% convinced, so I’ll just leave it at that: some type of echeveria. Here are the photos of the plant on my mother-in-law’s balcony:


Number 5: Your Chance to Win 5 SBD

Originally I wasn’t even going to make this a contest, but why not? For all you cactus fans out there, here is the prize question: Which plant is Number 5 supposed to be? Since there is no way of finding out what the artist intended to depict here, I’ll take the wildest guesses. The rules for winning are as follows:

  1.  Upvote this post. (Resteeming it and following me is much appreciated, though not required.)
  2.  Comment with the name of a plant you think this image is supposed to show, and a link to a photo of it. The scientific Latin name will leave no doubt, but I’ll take any common name as long as the Latin equivalent can be found.

If the plant you propose is a succulent that occurs naturally anywhere in Mexico, you’re qualified to win. On Tuesday at 12:00 noon (Mexico City time) I’m going to determine the winner: The commenter with the closest looking plant is going to receive 5 SBD (and a great congratulation). Good Luck, May the Best Guess Win the Prize! 

If you liked this, check out my developing series on Mexican murals:  

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WARNING - The message you received from @nirayma is a CONFIRMED SCAM!
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Oh okay, thanks for the warning! I wasn't going to, as I tend to see too many of these kinda automated things, and they kinda bother me anyway a bit, even if they're not (that) malicious. But now I'll make sure to steer away from this one.

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Well, although this bush is not a succulent or a cactus, you are my first contestant! (YEAY!!!) As for the appearance, I could kinda see it... upside-down maybe. Thanks for the submission!


Thanx for the submission, @missysheshe86! Hmmm, with those fleshy leaves and light greenish-orange color it sure looks like it. As for the size... why not? There may be giant sizes out there. Anyway, you're well qualified to win the prize.


Arrrrrrrr yeeeaaahh, fingers crossed, and size isn't everything haha



Aaaaaand the winner is.... @missysheshe86 and the Crassula nudicaulis! The reward is on its way. Thank you all for playing!


Yippee,just noticed i won,toot toot!! Thanking you very much indeedy