Rhipsalis baccifera, commonly known as the mistletoe cactus, is an epiphytic cactus which originates from Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Florida. It is also found throughout the tropics of Africa and into Sri Lanka where it is known in Sinhala as nawahandi (නවහන්දි).[2] This is the only cactus species naturally occurring outside the Americas. One hypothesis is that it was introduced to the Old World by migratory birds, long enough ago for the Old World populations to be regarded as distinct subspecies.[3] An alternative hypothesis holds that the species initially crossed the Atlantic Ocean on European ships trading between South America and Africa, after which birds may have spread it more widely.[4]

Rhipsalis baccifera
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Genus: Rhipsalis
R. baccifera
Binomial name
Rhipsalis baccifera



The species shows considerable polymorphism and can be divided into numerous subspecies. Mesoamerican specimens are usually tetraploid and South American specimens are diploid. The genera currently assigned to the tribe Rhipsalideae (which include Hatiora, Lepismium, and Schlumbergera in addition to Rhipsalis) were subject to considerable confusion and disagreement prior to the clarification by Wilhelm Barthlott and Nigel Taylor in 1995.[5]



  1. ^ Arreola, H.; Hammel, B.; Hilton-Taylor, C.; Ishiki, M.; Loaiza, C.; Nassar, J.; Oakley, L.; Pin, A.; Taylor, N.P.; Terrazas, T.; Zappi, D. (2017) [amended version of 2013 assessment]. "Rhipsalis baccifera". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T62378A121561919. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T62378A121561919.en. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  2. ^ "Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants of Sri Lanka". Institute of Ayurveda - Barberyn Ayurveda Resort.
  3. ^ Anderson 2001, p. 611.
  4. ^ Cota-Sánchez, J. Hugo & Bomfim-Patrício, Márcia C. (2010), "Seed morphology, polyploidy and the evolutionary history of the epiphytic cactus Rhipsalis baccifera (Cactaceae)" (PDF), Polibotanica, 29: 107–129, archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-29, retrieved 2012-05-15 – via University of Saskatchewan herbarium, pp. 117–118
  5. ^ Anderson, Edward F. (2001), The Cactus Family, Pentland, Oregon: Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-498-5, OCLC 44650974, pp. 102, 375