Online Encyclopedia

MELOCACTUS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 925 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MELOCACTUS, the genus of melon-thistle or Turk's-cap cactuses, contains, according to a recent estimate, about 90 species, which inhabit chiefly the West Indies, Mexico and Brazil, a few extending into New Granada. The typical species, M. communis, forms a succulent mass of roundish or ovate form, from t ft. to 2 ft. high, the surface divided into numerous furrows like the ribs of a melon, with projecting angles, which are set with a regular series of stellated spines—each bundle consisting of about five larger spines, accompanied by smaller but sharp bristles—and the tip of the plant being surmounted by a cylindrical crown 3 to 5 in. high, composed of reddish-brown, needle-like bristles, closely packed with cottony wool. At the summit of this crown the small rosy-pink flowers are produced, half protruding from the mass of wool, and these are succeeded by small red berries. These strange plants usually grow in rocky places with little or no earth to support them; and it is said that in times of drought the cattle resort to them to allay their thirst, first ripping them up with their horns and tearing off the outer skin, and then devouring the moist succulent parts. The fruit, which has an agreeably acid flavour, is frequently eaten in the West Indies. The Melocacti are distinguished by the distinct cephalium or crown which bears the flowers.
End of Article: MELOCACTUS
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MACEDONIO MELLONI (1798-1854)
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