Rhipsalis
Introduction 

The web site is the result of a collaboration of long-time Rhipsalis growers Ken Friedman (U.S.), Derek Butcher (Australia), and the late Luc Scherens (Belgium), to explain conflicting information about this group of plants. By 2003, more friends of Rhipsalis joined in the discussions at rhipsalis@yahoogroups.com and contributed insight and corrections to the site.

The site is intended for professionals and amateurs alike and we encourage contributions. Anyone who wants information about herbarium or type specimens should refer to the articles cited. We are following the approach of W. Barthlott and N.P. Taylor in Bradleya 13 (1995) with modifications.

We have chosen the name Rhipsalis for this web site because it is so much easier to use and pronounce than Rhipsalidinae or Rhipsalidea, which some of us can't pronounce anyway. We will also cover the three allied genera:  Lepismium, Hatiora and Schlumbergera. For the most part, Pseudorhipsalis are not included even though the name implies some connection to Rhipsalis.

Rhipsalis, accented on the first syllable (Rhip) and named from the Greek Rhips for wickerwork, is a genus of epiphytic, mostly spineless cacti found throughout Central America, parts of the Carribbean and a great part of northern and central South America. One species, R. baccifera Miller, is found throughout the range in the western hemisphere as well as parts of Africa, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal.

By far, the overwhelming majority of species come from South America. Two theories are used to explain dispersion of R. baccifera. Roland-Gosselin (1913) and Kimnach (1961) have suggested that seed was dispersed by migratory birds and regional birds.

A second theory suggested that this white-berried plant, known as mistletoe cactus, was carried to the Old World as a substitute for mistletoe during the Christmas season (Rowley, 1965).

Not only do we not know for certain how the species got from one continent to another or even from one area to another within the same continent, we do not know which species of birds and animals eat the fruit. Ken Friedman tried to feed rose-purple fruits to caged Australian finches and Pekin robins but the birds refused to eat them, preferring red prickly pear cactus slices 100 percent. So despite a long history, we know very little about Rhipsalis and much of what has been written about the genus is obscure and confusing. There is, excuse the cliche, light at the end of the tunnel and we hope to share here what we find out.

If you are interested in joining a serious e-mail discussion group about Rhipsalis, go to http://rhipsalis@googlegroups.com and sign on. NOTE: We used a Yahoo site for discussion until the end of 2004 were unable to close it. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rhipsalis/

Ken Friedman, US
Derek Butcher, Australia
1999 (rev. 02/05)