J Syst Evol

• Review •    

The evolutionary history and distribution of cactus germplasm resources, as well as potential domestication under a changing climate

Darya Khan1,2, AJ Harris3, Qamar U. Zaman1,2, Hong-Xin Wang1,4, Jun Wen5, Jacob B. Landis6,7, and Hua-Feng Wang1,2*   

  1. 1 Collaborative Innovation Center of Nanfan and High-Efficiency Tropical Agriculture, School of Breeding and Multiplication, Hainan University, Sanya 572025, Hainan, China;
    2 Hainan Yazhou Bay Seed Laboratory, Sanya 572025, Hainan, China;
    3 Key Laboratory of Plant Resources Conservation and Sustainable Utilization, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650, China;
    4 Zhai Mingguo Academician Work Station, Sanya University, Sanya 572022, Hainan, China;
    5 Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, MRC-166, Smithsonian Institution, PO Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA;
    6 School of Integrative Plant Science, Section of Plant Biology and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA;
    7 BTI Computational Biology Center, Boyce Thompson Institute, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
    *Author for correspondence. E-mail:hfwang@hainanu.edu.cn
  • Received:2022-08-26 Accepted:2023-10-16 Online:2024-01-25

Abstract: The angiosperm family Cactaceae, a member of the Caryophyllales, is a large and diverse group of stem succulents comprising 1438-1870 species within approximately 130 genera predominantly distributed from northern Canada to Patagonia. Four centers of diversity from Central and North America (Chihuahua, Puebla- Oaxaca, Sonora-Sinaloan, and Jalisco) and three centers of diversity from South America (Southern Central Andes, Caatinga, and Mara Atlantica) have played a pivotal role in disbursing cacti around the globe. Mexico is considered the richest area in cacti species with close to 563 species grouped into 50 genera. Approximately 118 species have been domesticated by Mesoamerican people as food crops and for ornamental purposes. Cacti inhabit a wide range of ecosystems and climate regions, ranging from tropical to subtropical and from arid to semiarid regions. Species belonging to the genus Opuntia are the major food crop producers in the family. Cacti have derived characteristics from familial synapomorphies within the Caryophyllales. Reproduction occurs through pollination facilitated by birds, bats, bees, and other insects. Climate variability, whether natural or human-induced threatens global crop production including high temperatures, salinity, drought, flood, changes in soil pH, and urbanization. Cacti have several adaptations that are important for coping with abiotic stresses, such as crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM photosynthesis), as well as modifications to root and stem physiological pathways. This review aims to provide a comprehensive view of the fruit crops in Cactaceae, including their evolution, worldwide distribution, and the environmental factors impacting cultivation.

Key words: biotic and abiotic stresses, Cactaceae, edible fruits, evolution, germplasm resources, origin and distribution