Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Ecological and Environmental Anthropology Vol. 3, No. 1, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Kelley. Used by permission. Online at http://eea.anthro.uga.edu/index.php/eea/index


The Organ Pipe Cactus combines historical, interview, and field observation data to plea for greater awareness, appreciation, and conservation of the organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) – pitaya as it is commonly known in the Sonoran Desert, Mexico. This short book (70 pages including excellent illustrations, glossary, references, and index) seeks to emphasize how (mostly impoverished) human communities have utilized and maintained the plant for centuries.
Yetman’s coverage of pitaya ecology is thorough and recognizes the roles humans have played in the plant’s distribution. Adaptations from cellular to landscape levels are explained with great clarity. Micro and macro habitat requirements are presented in such a way that is informative to both the ecological anthropologist and the casual lay reader. Yetman goes to great lengths to differentiate plant/population characteristics throughout its range, noting how changes in latitude, climate, soils, elevation, and community characteristics each influence pitaya distribution, morphology, life cycle, and fruit production. The symbiotic relationship between organ pipes and the bird and insect pollinators crucial to their survival is noted. Yetman details thoroughly how to distinguish the organ pipe from other columnar cacti that share its range.