This rare species of cactus, also known by its scientific name Stenocereus eruca, is native to the northwestern Mexican state of Baja California Sur and is the world's only known moving cactus. The creeping devil, unlike most other cactus species, does not rise vertically toward the sky; instead, it lies flat on the ground with only its tip slightly elevated. This is important not only for the plant's survival in isolation, but also for its ability to migrate across the desert for extended periods of time.
Creeping devil cacti can grow up to two feet per year in the cool maritime climate of Baja California Sur, forming massive, often impenetrable colonies of thorny roots, but when transplanted to more arid climates, their growth rate drops to two feet per decade. These succulents are isolated from pollinators even in their endemic climate, so they rely on self-cloning for survival.
The creeping devil cactus' stem begins to take roots toward its tip as it grows parallel to the earth, and once it is firmly fixed into the sandy soil, the old body dies, rotting and gradually turning into nutrients that help the new stem grow. It is also by this mechanism that the cactus is able to crawl through the desert over time. The cactus, in a sense, has to die in order to live.
The creeping devil is one of the world's most interesting plants, but it is on the verge of extinction. Cactus collectors would pay a high price to add it to their private succulent gardens due to its scarcity. According to El Diario, a creeping devil stem will sell for $4,000 to $5,000 on the black market, according to Alfredo Beltrán Morales, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS).
However, illegal trafficking isn't the only danger this cactus faces. The Creeping devil cactus can be a nuisance for grazing cattle because its thorny stems grow parallel to the ground, particularly when they form impenetrable barriers, so farmers casually kill entire colonies. Some people also cut down the cactus to make room for agricultural crops.
The creeping devil cactus is on Mexico's endangered species list, and if things continue as they have in recent years, these amazing plants will not be able to move through the sands of Baja California Sur for much longer. This cactus will live for up to 100 years if left alone.
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