Mistletoe Cactus, Beach Botany

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A rare and endangered member of the Cactaceae (Cactus Family), Mistletoe cactus, Ripsalis baccifera, is an evergreen perennial; an epiphytic cactus that grows in trees. Multiple leafless drooping stems are narrow(1/8”) & cylindrical in shape, without hairs or spines.

Translucent areoles grow from stem nodes that eventually turn into very small yellow to greenish/silvery white flowers. The flower has five bulky petals and several whitish stamens and a female style. The solitary inflorescence is up to ¼” wide. When pollinated by flying insects, they turn into a berry. Blooming occurs year around.

The plant came from the old world and can be found in several states, including Florida where it only grows naturally in the Everglades. The species is not related to the parasitic Oak Mistletoe that kills trees. Baccifera is a cactus but doesn’t look one. The specimen in the photo is in my front yard.