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Plants: Living Rock Cactus

I’ve been excitedly waiting to do a post on these special little cacti and now that it’s October, it means these hidden gems are in full view and ready for their debut. If you ever find yourself in the Chihuahuan desert, these are incredible to find but be sure to leave them where you found them!

Latin Name: Ariocarpus Fissuratus

Family: Cactaceae

Common name: Living Rock Cactus, Texas Living Rock, False Peyote, Star Cactus

Climate: hot, dry, arid

Size: Flat and 4-5 inches wide, larger specimens have been found

Flowers: Fall to early winter, bright pink flowers opening to a few inches wide

Range: Big Bend region of Texas and Mexico

Ariocarpus fissuratus is a beautiful, rosette shaped spine-less cactus that blends in well with the rocky Chihuahuan desert floor, hence its name the Living Rock Cactus. The Living Rock is a grey-green color with off white patterning and prefers well draining, low elevation limestone hills. These cacti are low to the ground and are very slow growing. We’ve found them ranging in size from about an inch and up to six inches. A good rule of thumb for determining their age is a decade of life for every inch of width. Though seemingly small on top, they possess a large taproot underground that expands and contracts with water retention and use. During dry periods, they’re even more difficult to spot due to their stems shrinking unifying the cactus even more with their rocky surroundings. The only time they’re easy to spot is when they flower, dotting the desert floor with beautiful pink flowers.

Living Rock preparing to flower
Beginning of a bloom
A beautiful and rare six flower bloom

Living Rock are a protected species here in the Big Bend due to the illegal poaching and selling of them. Illegal removal of such a large number of these cacti weakens its varied genetics and chances of future survival. As beautiful and unique as they are, they’re best left in their natural habitat for everyone to enjoy.


Small clump of Living Rock
October bloom!
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Laura Shaw

Owner of Terlingua Oasis Project

Former Bartender, Baker, Forager, Trail Guide, Cowboy, and Horse Trainer(which I’ve returned to part time).  I decided to lay down roots in the desert and help enact ecological and social change in the area by starting the Terlingua Oasis Project.

-Laura Shaw

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