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Cactus, TX, United States

Kalam M.A.,Sul Ross State University | Klein M.T.,Sul Ross State University | Hulsey D.,Sul Ross State University | Trout K.,Cactus Conservation Institute | And 2 more authors.
Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas | Year: 2013

A phytochemical analytical study was conducted to address the question of whether the mescaline concentration in Lophophora williomsii (peyote) is dependent on the maturity and/or size of the plant. Samples of crown tissue (4 g each) biopsied from mature peyote cacti and whole small regrowth crowns (2-4 g each) were collected from the same population in the Tamaulipan Thomscrub ecoregion of South Texas. For each of the two groups (mature and small regrowth), the individual tissue samples were pooled, desiccated, and ground to powder. The alkaloids were extracted with methanol at 25°C, followed by evaporation of the methanol to dryness, then acid-base cleanup with water and dichloromethane. The mescaline concentration in each of the extracts was then determined by HPLC. Quantitative analyses provided evidence that the small crowns that develop in response to harvesting contain a lower mescaline concentration-about half as much-compared to that of crowns of mature unharvested plants in the same population. The deficiency in the mescaline concentration of these regrowth buttons (new crowns) exacerbates the problem posed by the small size of the buttons; that is, it further increases the number of buttons that must be consumed to obtain an efficacious dose for ceremonial use by members of the Native American Church (NAC). That means that either the NAC members must consume less than the traditional amount of peyote, or there will be increased demand for peyote. Any increase in demand, reflected in the price, will engender more intensive harvesting, which will inevitably have adverse effects on both the supply of sacrament for the NAC and the conservation status of L. williamsii wherever the harvesters have access to peyote populations. Source

Terry M.,Sul Ross State University | Herrera T.,Rio Grande Native American Church | Trout K.,Cactus Conservation Institute | Williams B.,Cactus Conservation Institute | Fowler N.,University of Texas at Austin
Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas | Year: 2012

In 2008 we began a long-term study of the effects of harvesting on a wild population of the cactus Lophophora williamsii (peyote), including harvesting treatments similar to those used to harvest it for legally protected religious use by members of the Native American Church. Here we assess the effects of harvesting in three different treatments: (1) plants that were harvested once, (2) plants that were harvested every two years (typical of commercial harvesting rates), and (3) control plants that were never harvested. After four years, the survival rate was significantly greater in the unharvested control plants (94%) than in the harvested plants (73%). Average harvested mass of fresh tissue per plant decreased significantly (by 44%) between the first and second harvests, and then further decreased significantly (by 32%) between the second and third harvests. The average number of crowns per plant, which increased after the first harvest, decreased after the second harvest. Estimated total volume of the above-ground crown(s) of each plant, which was closely related to harvested plant mass, was used to compare growth rates between treatments. The average growth rate of the multiple-harvest plants was significantly lower than the average growth rates of plants in the other two treatments. Growth rates in the control and single-harvest treatments did not differ significantly in 2012, but because the single-harvest plants were so much smaller than the control plants in 2010, they remained smaller than the control plants in 2012. The annual number of crowns harvested and sold commercially as "buttons" by licensed peyote distributors continued its slow decrease in 2011, while the price per unit continued to rise. These trends and the results of this study all indicate that present rates of peyote harvest are unsustainable. Source

Terry M.,Sul Ross State University | Trout K.,Cactus Conservation Institute | Williams B.,Cactus Conservation Institute | Herrera T.,Rio Grande Native American Church | Fowler N.,University of Texas at Austin
Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas | Year: 2011

Lophophora williamsii (peyote) is a cactus whose crowns are commercially harvested for religious use as an ingested psychoactive sacrament by members of the Native American Church. Over the past quarter century peyote has become progressively less available, due in part to improper harvesting techniques and excessive harvesting. Since anatomical aspects of the regrowth of peyote and best harvesting practices were explicated in a previous study (Terry & Mauseth 2006), the principal focus in the present study was to determine the effects of harvesting where only best practices were employed. We assessed the effects of (1) harvesting per se (a single harvesting event evaluated after two years), (2) repeated harvesting (two harvesting events two years apart), and (3) not harvesting at alt. After two years, the once-harvested group had a 90% survival rate and the unharvested control group had a 98% survival rate, a difference that was not statistically significant. The above-ground volume of the unharvested plants was significantly larger than that of the regrown harvested plants. While the regrown harvested plants had on average more crowns, their crowns were significantly smaller, in comparison to those of the unharvested plants. After two years, the surviving plants in the harvested group were divided into two subgroups, one of which was harvested for a second time. The other subgroup consisted of plants that had been harvested only once (at the start of the study) and were not reharvested. The weights of the crowns obtained in the second harvest were significantly lower than the weights of the crowns obtained in the first harvest from the same plants two years earlier. The net effect of a single harvesting was a reduction of plant above-ground volume by almost 80% after two years of regrowth. These data reflect what is occurring on a massive scale in habitat where peyote is commercially harvested. The annual numbers of crowns being harvested have not yet decreased drastically, due to the increased number of crowns produced as regrowth in response to harvesting. But the average size of the crowns in the regulated peyote market has decreased markedly due to too-early harvesting of immature regrowth crowns. These results-with emphasis on the conspicuous reduction in mean size of individuals-are typical of overharvested populations of wild-collected species, such as ginseng. The conclusion for conservation management is that reducing the frequency of harvesting of wild peyote would allow regrowth crowns to mature in size-thus reducing the number of crowns per dose required for sacramental consumption. It would also allow regrowth crowns to mature sexually, which would effectively de-suppress the production of seed for the next generation. Source

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