The southern portion of the Chihuahuan Desert of subtropical north central Mexico ( 1 1 0 , 1 86, 250, 254, 255 , 262, 3 1 1 ) extends from the vicinity of Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi north to the area of Saltillo, Torreon, and Chihuahua (1 1 00-2500 m elevation). It contains a number of vegetation types in which large perennial plants (Opuntia, Yucca, Acacia, and Prosopis) are a prominent part of the vegetation. Their names are often incorporated in the names for Chihuahuan Desert plant associations (202, 250-256, 270, 272, 311). A spectacular example is the nopalera (Figure 1 ) , the stimulus for this eclectic review. Nopaleras are dense stands of 1-4-m tall Opuntia cacti of several species , dotted with emergent Yucca, Acacia, and Prosopis ( 1 81 254, 246) . The name is local in origin and derives from the Mexican Indian (nahuatl) generic name of 'nopaI' for the broad-stemmed species of Opuntia cacti. In a nopalera, the cacti are so abundant that the habitat resembles the monotypic forests of introduced Opuntia that grew in Australia [see figures in (69)] until the introduction of neotropical insects that decimated them. The area between
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics – Annual Reviews
Published: Nov 1, 1986
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