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216 × 138 × 21 mm
224 pages
117 illustrations, 101 in colour
01 Apr 2017

Cactus Dan Torre

Cacti are full of contradictions. They can be found in some of the harshest, driest and most barren environments on earth, yet some are delicate tropical plants that grow high among the branches of the rainforest canopy. Many cacti bristle with ferocious-looking spines, while others are completely bare. Nearly all exhibit remarkable floral displays – some having flowers that are even larger than the plant itself.

Cacti have played a prominent role in human history for thousands of years. Some species were revered by ancient civilizations, playing a part in their religious ceremonies; other varieties have been heavily cultivated for food or for the production of the bright red dye cochineal – which is actually derived from a parasitic insect that feeds on the prickly pear cactus. Native to the American continents, cacti have spread worldwide and have become an important feature in many gardens and collections. Although not often in the culinary forefront of people’s minds, a number of varieties of cacti are delicious to eat – ‘dragon fruit’, produced by the cactus species Hylocereus undatus, is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular tropical treats.

Cactus explores the natural, cultural and social history of cacti, and their representation throughout the world in literature, cinema, animation, art and design, and popular culture. This is a highly original, entertaining and richly illustrated book that will appeal to everyone with an interest in cacti.

Dan Torre is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Design at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. He is an avid grower and collector of cacti, and author of Cactus (Reaktion, 2017).


one Natural History of the Cactus

two Native Cacti, Alien Cacti

three Beautiful Cacti, Beastly Cacti

four Almost Human: The Anthropomorphic Cacti

five Eating Cacti

six Transforming the Cactus

seven Cactus Collectors and Cactus Societies



Further Reading

Associations and Websites


Photo Acknowledgements