The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Ariocarpus fissuratus (Engelm.) K. Schum.


False Peyote, Living Rock




Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Forms and Subspecies


This variable species is divided into two varieties:

Ariocarpus fissuratus var. fissuratus (Engelm.) K. Schum.

Ariocarpus fissuratus var. lloydii (Rose) Anderson



Anhalonium engelmanni Lem.

Anhalonium fissuratum (Engelm.) Engelm.

Ariocarpus intermedius

Ariocarpus lloydii Rose

Mammillaria fissurata Engelm.

Roseocactus fissuratus (Engelm.) Berger

Roseocactus intermedius

Roseocactus lloydii (Rose) Berger

Folk Names


Chaute, chautle, dry whiskey, falscher peyote, false peyote, falso peyote, hikuli sunamí (Tarahumara, “false peyote”), lebender stein, living rock, living star, pata de venoda (Spanish,“deer paw”), peyote, peyote cimarrón (Spanish, “wild peyote”), pezuña de venado, star cactus, star rock, sternenkaktus, sunami, tsuwíri (Huichol), wollfruchtkaktus



This cactus, which is usually referred to as false peyote or dangerous peyote (see Lophophora williamsii), was certainly already well known in pre-Spanish times. Colonial sources, however, make no mention of it. Today, it is a sought-after species for many cactus enthusiasts and breeders.



This species is found only in southwestern Texas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico.



The plant can be grown from seed; it requires well-draining cactus soil (otherwise, like Lophophora williamsii).



Ariocarpus fissuratus is a small tuberous cactus that grows only a few centimeters tall. Its nodes end in pointed triangles, which give the plant a starlike appearance. The flower is pink-violet. The furrows of the variety lloydii are considerably smaller, so it does not have such a jagged appearance (Preston-Mafham 1995, 15*).

Ariocarpus fissuratus is easily confused with the closely related Ariocarpus retusus Scheidw. The Huichol Indians also refer to the latter species as tsuwíri, “bad peyote”; it is known in Spanish as falso peyote,“false peyote,” and may have been used as a peyote substitute. Also very similar, with violet or white flowers, is Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus (Lem.) K. Schum., which is found in the Mexican states of Durango, Nuevo León, and San Luis Potosí (Preston Mafham 1995, 16*). This species is also known as false peyote or deer paw (Bravo Hollis and Scheinvar 1995, 63*).

Psychoactive Material


—Buttons (aboveground cactus flesh)

Preparation and Dosage


Unknown; it is apparently eaten while fresh or dried until its effects become noticeable.

It is said that the cactus was formerly used by the inhabitants along the Texas-Mexico border to fortify the maize beer (chicha) they called tizwin; it purportedly made them “temporarily crazy and uncontrollable” (Havard 1896, 38*).

Ritual Use


If this cactus has any ritual use at all, it is only as a peyote substitute (see Lophophora williamsii). The Huichol Indians strongly warn against eating this cactus, for it has the reputation of being associated with sorcery (Furst 1971).



A related species of Ariocarpus is depicted on a Laotian stamp.

Medicinal Use





Both varieties have been found to contain the βphenethylamines hordenine and N-methyltyramine. The var. fissuratus also yielded N-methyl-3, 4-dimethoxy-phenethylamine (McLaughlin 1969; Mata and McLaughlin 1982, 95*). Ariocarpus retusus contains hordenine, N-methyltyramine, N-methyl-3,4-dimethoxy-β-phenethylamine, and N-methyl-4-methoxy-β-phenethylamine (Braga and McLaughlin 1969; Neal and McLaughlin 1970). Other species of Ariocarpus have also yielded hordenine and methyltyramine (Bruhn 1975; Mata and McLaughlin 1982, 95*; Speir et al. 1970).


The blossoming Ariocarpus trigonus of Mexico, on a stamp from the Southeast Asian country of Laos.









An Ariocarpus button, used as a peyote substitute.



The relatively rare northern Mexican Ariocarpus fissuratus is known as false peyote or dangerous peyote.




The renowned Huichol shaman Ramón Media Silva described the effects as contrasting with the pleasant effects of peyote: “When you eat it, you become crazy; you fall into the canyons, you see scorpions, snakes, dangerous animals, you are unable to walk, you fall, you often fall to your death by falling from the cliffs.”

The effects of Ariocarpus are said to be very dangerous, particularly for those who do not possess a strong “Huichol heart” (Furst 1971, 183).

Commercial Forms and Regulations


The cactus (as well as other species of the genus) is available in cactus nurseries. Often, however, it is sold for astronomical prices.



See also the entries for Lophophora williamsiiβphenethylamines, and mescaline.


Braga, D. L., and J. L. McLaughlin. 1969. Cactus alkaloids. V: Isolation of hordenine and N-methyltyramine from Ariocarpus retusus. Planta Medica 17:87.


Bruhn, Jan G. 1975. Phenethylamines of Ariocarpus scapharostus. Phytochemistry 14:2509–10.


Furst, Peter T. 1971. Ariocarpus retusus, the “‘false peyote” of Huichol tradition. Economic Botany 25:182–87.


McLaughlin, J. L. 1969. Cactus alkaloids. VI: Identification of hordenine and N-methyltyramine in Ariocarpus fissuratus varieties fissuratus and lloydii. Lloydia 32:392.


Neal, J. M., and J. L. McLaughlin. 1970. Cactus alkaloids. IX: Isolation of N-methyl-3,4-dimethoxy-β-phenethylamin and N-methyl-4-methoxy-β-phenethylamin from Ariocarpus retusus. Lloydia 33 (3): 395–96.


Speir, W. W., V. Mihranian, and J. L. McLaughlin. 1970. Cactus alkaloids. VII: Isolation of hordenin and N-methyl-3,4-dimethoxy-β-phenethylamin from Ariocarpus trigonus. Lloydia 33 (1): 15–18.



The rare Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus.



Ariocarpus retusus, also known as false peyote.



A rare variety, Ariocarpus retusus var. furfuraceus.



Ariocarpus trigonus, which resembles an agave or an aloe and also contains psychoactive substances.