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Fruiting Cactus Photo (Pilosocereus maxonii Photo), Arid Interior, Río Motagua Valley in Guatemala

This Cactus was in the Deciduous Dry Scrub Forest south of Santa Cruz, Departamento de Zacapa.

Pilosocereus maxonii produces abundant red fruit that are eaten by at least 18 species of birds.

The fruit in this photo has been partially consumed by birds.

The Sierra de las Minas is visible to the north.

Foto de Cacto de Nombre "Cabeza de Viejo" 

Cabeza de Viejo means Old Man's Head, the name deriving from the white cottony fibers

at the stem tips of this large, candelabra-shaped cactus. The cactus here is a small specimen.

Guatemala  © 1984 Peter W. Wendelken

The fruit of the Cabeza de Viejo Cactus Pilosocereus maxonii possesses a juicy pulp through which are distributed hundreds of tiny seeds. In 1984, the population of P. maxonii displayed synchonized fruiting during three discrete periods from mid-May to early July. Each fruit-ripening pulse lasted about 1 week and successive pulses were separated by nonfruiting intervals of 2 weeks. One large plant (6 meters tall) opened 33 and 16 fruit on 29 and 30 June, respectively.

Pilosocereus maxonii fruit is consumed by at least 16 species of birds: White-winged Dove, Orange-fronted Parakeet, White-fronted Parrot, Groove-billed Ani, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, White-throated Magpie Jay, Rufous-naped Wren, Tropical Mockingbird, Varied Bunting, Stripe-headed Sparrow, Melodious Blackbird, Streak-backed Oriole, and Altamira Oriole.

Most of the bird species perched on the cactus while eating fruit. However, the Great Kiskadee utilized "flycatcher sallies" to obtain fruit, flying to an open fruit from a perch in an adjacent tree or bush, removing pulp with the bill while hovering briefly, then flying to a perch to swallow.

These data are based on the field study done by Peter Wendelken in Guatemala in 1984 when he lived in Teculután, Departamento de Zacapa. A PDF version of the paper resulting from the study may be accessed via the following link.

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