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The Cactus Family

By Edward F. Anderson

Foreword by Wilhelm Barthlott

A very thorough treatment of the subject — there's little more you could learn about cacti after reading this book.

American Gardener

Only now, at the beginning of the new millennium, is there an up-to-date, comprehensive study of the cactus family. This long-awaited, monumental work covers the Cactaceae in an encyclopedic manner, addressing 125 genera and 1810 species. The most comprehensive single resource on the subject available today, it includes more than 1000 color photographs in addition to other illustrations. The introduction to each genus concentrates on the discovery of the cacti, and the improvements in our understanding of them, many of which result from relatively recent investigation. As stated in the foreword, "Cacti have a special fascination all their own. Miniature spiny dwarf cacti less than an inch in diameter are hidden in the arid regions of North and South America; the majestic columns of the giant saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, dominate the deserts of Arizona. Yet all these cacti, given time, offer the surprising paradox of brilliant flowers, their delicacy a striking contrast to the strong spines that keep the viewer at a respectful distance." This remarkable diversity is fully described and illustrated in this authoritative encyclopedia, which is both scientifically accurate and readable. It also includes a chapter by Roger Brown on the cultivation of cacti, making the book even more useful to growers and hobbyists, as well as to taxonomists, ethnobotanists, and conservationists — indeed, anyone interested in succulent plants.

Awards for this book: American Horticultural Society Book Award, Council on Botanical and Horticultural Literature Award

Media reviews

"This is a very thorough treatment of the subject — there's little more you could learn about cacti after reading this book. ... A book like this enriches our knowledge and may encourage people's interest in growing unusual plants."

American Gardener

"A technical reference for nomenclature and botanic descriptions, as well as an excellent guide to refer to when looking up individual species. Both informative and practical."

—David Salman, American Gardener

"Botanists and hobbyists who grow, study, and cultivate cacti will find Anderson's book a welcome necessity. ... This book is a monumental accomplishment."


"Anderson is an eminently inviting writer who delivers intriguing descriptions of the characteristics that set these plants apart. He also presents brief but brilliant surveys of ethnobotany and conservation issues."


"As a typically superior publication of horticultural Timber Press, it will stand for years as the single most important contribution to the understanding of cactus."

—Maureen Gilmer, Scripps Howard News Service

"This book will be an essential reference in every research library, and should reside on the shelf of every serious cactus enthusiast."

—Arthur C. Gobson, Quarterly Review of Biology

"It is a pleasure to read about so many rarely seen cacti, illustrated with good color photographs throughout ... A great work that anyone who gardens in the sun will want to own."

—Sean Hogan, Rock Garden Quarterly

"This tome by the late Ted Anderson is like a breath of fresh air on the cactus scene. I would unhesitatingly state that if one required only one book on the cacti, then this would be it. It is extensive, encyclopedic, inclusive and authoritative in its scope."

—Paul I. Forster, Plant Systematics and Evolution

"There simply is no other book about this subject that is as comprehensive or up to date. I predict it will be another 10 years or more before any book comes along that will serve as a good substitute."

—Diana Pederson, Suite101.com

"This book tells it all. Growers and hobbyists, taxonomists, ethnobotanists, conservationists, and other interested people will find the chapters by Roger Brown on the cultivation of cacti quite helpful."

—Marty Figley, Michigan Observer and Eccentric

"Anderson, who studied cacti for 45 years, felt there was a need for a scientifically accurate and extensively illustrated book that would be useful for those interested in succulent plants — from students, taxonomists, ethnobotanists and conservationists to anyone wanting to know more about these unusual plants of the New World. This monumental publication surely accomplishes that! Now one incredible book describes and illustrates the wonders of this spectacular family!"

—Jane Villa-Lobos, Plant Talk

"This book will be of long-term value to professionals as well as hobbyists."

—Thane Johnson, Library News for Zoos and Aquariums

"An essential publication for anyone seriously interested in Cacti ... I strongly recommend cactus growers to buy this book."


"Up-to-date in naming, eminently readable, immaculately presented, abundantly illustrated — for all this the celebrations should resound far outside the cactus community. ... No-one should hesitate to acquire this weighty tome as a prime source of data on one of the most advanced, fascinating and intangible of all plant Families."

—Gordon Rowley, British Cactus and Succulent Journal

"This long awaited, monumental study of the cacti is the first complete treatment of the family in almost 80 years ... The remarkable diversity of cacti is fully described and illustrated in this authoritative encyclopedia, which is both scientifically accurate and readable."

Professional Gardener

"Only one word will suffice to describe our overall impression: The Cactus Family is magnificent!"


"This work is a comprehensive horticultural guide that is as much a scholarly handbook as it is a coffee-table picture album."

—Mary Ellen Snodgrass, American Reference Books Annual

"For over eight decades these definitive records [the publication, The Cactacae] have been the authority on the plant family Cactacae. Edward Anderson's The Cactus Family is now the hallmark publication."

—Bruce Asakawa, Garden Compass

"The real meat of this large, scholarly work is contained in its encyclopedic treatment of the 125 genera of cacti. [The photographs] are superb and will entice many avid collectors."

—David Salman, American Gardener

"The photographs of some of the rarest and most sought-after species of Mexican and South American cacti in habitat are superb and will entice many avid collectors who view them."

—David Salman, American Gardener

"I am in debt to Anderson for his painstaking effort to define a group of plants that defy classification. In his monumental work, Anderson has created the best contemporary reference for a huge group of plants that change genera like commuters change trains."

—Maureen Gilmer, FortWayne.com

"The long-awaited comprehensive study of Cactaceae."

Wisley Bookshop

"This marvelous resource has been well worth waiting for ... For those interested in growing cacti in their homes and gardens, Brown's advice ... is a valuable bonus to this specialized encyclopedia ... Over 1,000 stunning color photographs (many by Anderson), which are overwhelming in their portrayal of both the beauty and the idiosyncratic nature of cacti ... It will be difficult for cacti enthusiasts to wean themselves from this prodigious book ... This splendid work stands alone at the top of its genre."

—Lynn C. Westney, E-Streams

"This is [Anderson's] life work — for all cactus maniacs who want to cultivate these startingly beautiful dryland American succulents. ... Everything you need to know in one great volume."

—Jane Cole, Wired Gardener

"It is an outstanding volume for any who have more than a casual interest in cacti."

Reviewer's Bookwatch

"Edward Anderson's Cactus Family is an outstanding volume for any who have more than a casual interest in cacti."

Wisconsin Bookwatch

"There is no other book that comprehensively discusses the botany, conservation, cultivation and ethnobotany of cacti than The Cactus Family."

—Kevin Janni, Botanical Research Institute of Texas

"Excellence we have come to expect from Timber Press. It will long be valued as a source book ... [Anderson] has left us a monument that merits high praise."

—Gordon Rowley, Garden (Peterborough)

"Definitive and beautifully illustrated."

Avant Gardener

"I believe that this book is a monumental accomplishment and that there is nothing else like it."

—Richard Stone, Horticultural Society of New York Newsletter

"This new standard will be much in demand among botanists, gardeners and plant enthusiasts."

Lawrence Looks at Books

"Touted as the most comprehensive book on cacti in 80 years, The Cactus Family is the culmination of the late Dr. Edward F. Anderson's life's work."

Phoenix Home and Garden

"A landmark work that will prove indispensable to all cactophiles."


"An essential, core user friendly title for personal, professional, and academic horticultural and gardening reference collections."

Reviewer's Bookwatch

"While it is written in a scientifically accurate way, it as nonetheless very readable so that to be extremely helpful to the cactus enthusiast. A long-awaited work, and we must be grateful to Dr. Ted Anderson for having accomplished such a monumental effort. It would be unfair not to mention the publisher, Timber Press, that has done a remarkable job, not only in having carried out such a very well produced book, but alsoselling it for a remarkably reasonable price."

—Lucio Russo, BotanyBooks

"Everything you ever wanted to know about any kind of cactus ... The saguaro of books."

—Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic

"Buy this book! Buy it now. If you have any interest in cacti, you will not regret investing in such a fact-filled and well-illustrated book. It is by far the best cactus book now in print."

—Myron Kimnach, Cactus and Succulent Journal

About the author

Edward F. Anderson

The late Edward F. Anderson was Senior Research Botanist at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona. He was past president of the International Organization for Succulent Plant Study, a fellow of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, and a member of the Linnean Society, London. In 1998 Dr. Anderson was awarded the prestigious Cactus d'Or, given by the principality of Monaco for outstanding research on succulents.

Read more about Edward F. Anderson

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