The story of the lophophorus

To my friends, who are far from the flower theme, I like to tell about one cactus with an undeservedly tarnished reputation and great cultural significance. The name of this cactus is lophophora willamsii.

History of lophophora

The lophora is native to North America. There, the plant is more commonly known as peyotl, which is also the name of the drink that the Indians living in what is now Mexico and the surrounding areas used to make from a small and unsightly-looking cactus.

But while the Native Americans equated lophophora to a deity and was an integral part of religious rituals and medical prescriptions, the vigilant US government decided to take a different view and prohibited the cultivation and use of peyote in any form, classifying it as a banned substance. And with good reason: the alkaloids contained in lophophorus williams have a narcotic effect on the body, increasing the sensitivity of the sensory organs. And this property was willingly used by the natives.

The plant is not easy to spot against the dusty soil of the Mexican deserts. Its size does not exceed 8 centimeters, and its domed shape with weakly pronounced ribs and complete absence of prickles, combined with the faded color of its trunk, gives the lophophora maximum resemblance to rocks. The result was a very amusing condition: in order to find the divine cactus in the desert, the natives used peyote and, with sharpened vision, coped with the task with flying colors.

By the way, it is for members of the Native American Church that U.S. law makes an exception and allows them to use the plant for their religious purposes.

Lophora is illegal

It is naive to assume that peyote cannot be grown only in the United States. In Russia, for example, the corresponding ban appeared in 2004: keeping more than two specimens in one apartment is considered a violation of the law. Therefore, it is hardly possible to buy lophophora williamsa in the Russian Federation.


Many collectors in response only throw up their hands, because even in greenhouse conditions the production for the purpose of obtaining drugs is completely unprofitable: like all cacti, lofora grows extremely slowly, and begins to bloom at the age of at least 7 years. And the content of alkaloids, fully produced in natural conditions, on Russian windowsills will tend to zero.

But the law is the law, there’s nothing to be done…