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Peyote (Lophophora williamsii)—Dennis E. Anderson
Either of two species of the genus Lophophora in the cactus family, native to North America, almost exclusively to Mexico. The body of the peyote cactus is spineless, soft, usually blue-green, and only 3 in. (8 cm) wide and 2 in. (5 cm) tall. The more common species, mescal (L. williamsii), has pink to white flowers. L. diffusa, more primitive, has white to yellow flowers and a yellow-green body. Well known for its hallucinogenic effects (primarily due to the alkaloid mescaline), peyote figures prominently in old and recent religious rituals of certain American Indian peoples. The sale, use, or possession of dried mescal buttons (flowering heads) or live plants is prohibited by law in many places.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on peyote, visit Britannica.com.