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Naturwissenschaften. 2006 Jul;93(7):344-7. Epub 2006 Apr 1.

Primary colonization and breakdown of igneous rocks by endemic, succulent elephant trees (Pachycormus discolor) of the deserts in Baja California, Mexico.

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  • 1Environmental Microbiology Group, Center for Biological Research of the Northwest (CIBNOR), P.O. Box 128, La Paz, B.C.S. 23000, Mexico.


Trees growing in rocks without soil are uncommon. In two arid regions in Baja California, Mexico, field surveys found large numbers of rock-colonizing elephant trees (Pachycormus discolor (Benth.) Coville ex Standl. (Mexican name: copalquin) growing in igneous rocks (granite and basalt) as primary colonizers without the benefit of soil or with a very small amount of soil generated by their own growth. Many adult trees broke large granite boulders and were capable of wedging, growing in, and colonizing rocks and cliffs made of ancient lava flows. This is the first record of a tree species, apart from the previously recorded cacti, capable of primary colonization of rocks and rock rubble in hot deserts.

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