Molecular biologist from Athens has been collecting thousands of cacti for 30 years



Andreas Laras, PhD, molecular biologist and amateur botanist from Greece has been collecting thousands of cacti in his greenhouse in Athens for about 30 years. From his adolescence, his cacti attracted attention due to their special beauty associated with their morphology, geometric shape, and high degree of symmetry. Mr. Laras began to visit places where cacti grow, such as Mexico, as he says in the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency “seeing plants in their natural environment is something completely different, it is something shocking, one gets a different picture”. Since 2000 Mr. Laras has visited Mexico 14 times. Each time it is a new experience, as exploring the area he searched for natural populations of these plants, collecting seeds, which he then cultivates in his greenhouse. Traveling there, he began to discover new plant populations of a particular cactus family, the ariocarp. “I have chosen a group of plants, cacti, ariocans that are special plants are very interesting and because of their morphology because they are cryptic species – there are only 9 species of this genus – that are protected from enemies by mimicking their environment and thus look more like stones or rocks rather than live plants. Mexico is a huge and beautiful country with great biodiversity and geography. It has 13 climatic zones, from deserts and jungles to alpine mountains. “All this biodiversity results in about half of the cacti, about half of the species that grow in Mexico, 85% of them are endemic, that is, they exist in Mexico and nowhere else”, Mr. Laras notes in APE-MPE. Arriving in Mexico each time, Mr. Laras rents a car and leaves the cities as fast as he can to go to the mountains and deserts, since the ariocs he deals with grow in specialized environments, on rocks, in mud plains, which, according to him, coincide with the most inaccessible and remote areas in America. For this trip he needs to spend a lot of time each time as he needs to study maps and data, as he notes, three weeks of work there means a few months of study. “I count the populations, I record how many plants there are in each population, their characteristics, their morphology, their geology, if the populations are endangered and in what condition they are reproductive, it is a complete study of their genus which only amateurs can do “, He states. The places he visits are so remote that he is often the only and first stranger they have ever seen. “Most of these villages are Indian,” he underlines in APE-MPE. Mr. Laras stays at least three weeks each time to collect seeds. “I manage to collect a dozen or two seeds, then I bring them to Greece and from there I grow the plants. It is a process that takes at least a decade for this type of cactus. The process from “I pick the seed, I bring it to Greece and I have an adult plant that will bloom and make seeds” is a minimum of 10 years “, he explains. For Mr. Laras this occupation is more than a hobby as on the one hand he has a scientific approach to all this due to his profession, in a way he does “amateur botany”, on the other hand, as he says, it is a way , an occasion to escape from the normal flow of life. “Leaving all this behind you and going to a very remote place in Mexico where there is a nature you have never seen in your life is a very strong feeling. For example, at some point you may find yourself on a mountain peak after 3 hours of walking and looking around you can not see anyone else and feel that you are the only creature on the planet “, he emphasizes. Cacti constantly pique people’s interest and acquire everything and more “supporters”. “What people do not understand is that we like cacti because they are beautiful, they are beautiful because they have a distinct geometry and symmetry but what they do not know is that these characteristics are not random, they are the result of an evolutionary adaptation to the inhospitable and dry environment. in which they live. The beauty of the cactus has to do clearly with its effort to survive in a very inhospitable environment “, he notes. Source: APE-BEA Follow it on Google News and be the first to know all the news



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