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Panian, M - Peyote

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 6 months ago
  Peyote; A Divine Cactus
By Mike Panian
Common Name: Peyote
Scientific Name: Lophophore williamsii
The reason why I chose peyote is that I am interested in the study of plants with psychoactive properties. I am also interested how the government regulates a plant that is
 considered illegal but also grows naturally in the United States.
Natural Habitat: Peyote is a unique type of cactus found in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is located south of Texas and in northern Mexico. This area is categorized under the
 deserts and xeric shrublands biome. It receives anywhere from 140mm to 400mm of rain per year which is more than the typical desert receives. The Chihuahuan Desert
 also and has an average temperature of 18.6˚C which is slightly cooler than the average desert.  This area is isolated from other regions by the Sierra Madras Mountains
 which has allowed evolution to occur within many species within this region.
Map of the Chihuahuan Desert, natural habitat of Peyote
Reproduction: Peyote is a perennial plant that reproduces mainly sexually. The plants flower in early summer. The ovules develop into mature seeds 1 year later. Next, the
 fruit ripens and eventually ruptures. The seeds are dispersed then carried away by the heavy summer rains. Peyote also reproduces asexually by producing lateral shoots
 which arise from lateral areoles. After the new shoots grow to a sufficient size, they break away and form their own roots. Offspring from asexual reproduction are identical to
 their parents.
Human Uses: This plant has a number of human uses. It is used by Native American and Mexicans as a religious sacrament. It is also been used to treat blindness, fevers and
 other diseases. Peyote has also been used to treat certain drug and alcohol addictions.  Peyote has been under scrutiny because of its psychoactive properties. Peyote has a
natural source of mescaline which is a controlled narcotic. United States law has permitted Peyote to be used by Native Americans because of its religious use.  When used, the user will initially feel nauseated.  Afterwards, the user will encounter a psychoactive hallucination for up to 10 hours.  The 'trip" is accompanied with visual hallucinations and many users have reported many epiphanies on their own lives.
A group of mature Lophophore williamsii                                                                  An individual flowering Peyote                                                                                   
http://www.mescaline.com/exp/peyote-cacti.jpg                                                   http:www.mescaline.com/peyote.jpg     
Interesting facts: Peyote is a very slow growing plant. It would take nearly five years to get a plant that is 15 millimeters in diameter. However peyote can be grafted into faster growing rootstocks which will triple or quadruple their growth rate. The Peyote cactus is a perennial plant and has an extremely long life cycle. They have been knownto live for up to a hundred years.Because of the plants extremely slow rate of growth it is not believed to be an invasive species. It is very sensitive to temperature and climate, thus does not do well outside of its natural habitat. Right now, the plant is being over-harvested and is threatened from being wiped out in Texas, although they are more predominant in Mexico. United States federal laws regarding controlled substances make it very difficult to protect this plant.  While Peyote was once a common plant in the Chihuahuan Desert, It is now considered an endangered species in Mexico and it may one day face extinction in its natural habitat.

The Chihuahuan Desert
The Chihuahuan Desert is a desert located in the southern part of the United States and the northern part of Mexico. The Chihuahuan Desert qualifies under the desert and xeric shrub lands habitat. Because the Sierra Madre Occidental are on the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental are on the east, it is usually referred to as a rain shadow desert. There are also a number of smaller mountain ranges within the desert which makes a wide range of elevations. The river valleys within the desert create a variety of habitats which are not commonly found in other deserts.  
The Chihuahaun Desert is approximately 175,000 square miles, which makes is larger than the entire state of California. The desert receives anywhere between 140mm and 400mm of rain per year. It receives the majority of this precipitation during its summer monsoon. It also has a mild rainy season during the winter months. 
The Chihuhuan desert does contain much more water than most deserts. The reason is that the river valleys are fueled by the Rio Grande River. The desert also contains a number of oases. An oasis is an area of water and vegetation that is normally fueled by water springing from below. Because this desert contains many aquatic habitats, it is home to a number of birds, turtles, and even fish.
The Chihuahuan desert is the habitat of Peyote. Its population has been decreasing over the years and may be threatened in the future. One reason its population is being threatened is because it is being over harvested. Although peyote is classified as a controlled substance due to it containing the drug mescaline, it is permitted for use by the members of the Native American Church. In the United States, there are between 200,000 and half a million members in the church. This creates a huge demand for the cactus for ceremonial use. Peyote grows at a very slow pace, thus it takes a quite a while to replace the harvested populations of the cactus. 
Going back to the fact that United States laws makes the cactus illegal, it makes it difficult to protect it within our boarder. Our government apparently doesn’t seem to think that Peyote is a valuable plant and its laws may lead to it’s extinction within the United States. In Mexico, it is protected as an endangered species and its harvesting is closely regulated. Although it is protected in Mexico, many tourists come from around the world to come and try the cactus. In Mexico, there are people who, for a fee, will take you to spots where the cactus grows. Basically, the laws regarding the harvest of Peyote aren’t being enforced in Mexico and the plant isn’t even being protected in the United States. This may cause the extinction of the cactus in its natural habitat. I believe the United States should change the legal status of peyote and make further laws protecting the plant. In Mexico, they should make an organization that is paid to protect the Peyote cactus along with the rest of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Another issue surrounding the Chihuahuan Desert is that it is located on the boarder of the United States and Mexico. The United States has already begun to put a manmade boarder separating the United States from Mexico. This may severely disrupt the ecosystem of the Chihuahaun Desert. By placing a boarder, it may cause the separation of certain populations of both plants and animals. A manmade barrier would possibly prevent the spread of seeds thus make certain species endangered or extinct on the other side. The Rio Grande already acts as a natural barrier and is essential to the Chihuahuan Desert.  This area is also seeing an increase in human poplulation which is causing an increase in the use of the water supply.  This area of the desert should be left alone because of the potential damage it could have on the ecosystems and habitats within the Chihuahuan Desert.
Andersen E, The Botany of Peyote Chapter 8, Peyote, The Divine Cactus, ©1980 The Arizona Board of Regents  Published by The University of Arizona Press ISBN 0-8165-0680-9 [internet].[updated Thursday July 19, 2007] available at http://www.erowid.org/plants/peyote/peyote_info1.shtml
Gottlieb A, 1997. Peyote and other Psychoactive Cacti. Berkley (CA): Ronin. p 44-66
Clover K, 2006. Environmental Studies Student Association Update. [Cited 2007 Feb 18] available at http://hss.fullerton.edu/envstud/newsletters/Newsletter_spring06.pdf
The Chihuahuan Desert. [last updated 2007] New Mexico State University.  Availible at http://ddl.nmsu.edu/chihuahua.html
Shultes R. Hoffman A. Plants of the Gods- Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. 1992 Healing Arts Press. Vermont. Availible at http://peyote.org/
Peyote Facts and Information. [last updated 2002] Marijuana-seeds.Biz. Avalilible at http://www.marijuana-seeds.biz/peyote-facts-and-information.html

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