Cactus are a type of succulent plant that are adapted to thrive in arid and semi-arid climatic conditions. They are known for their distinctive appearance, which includes thick, fleshy stems covered in spines or hairs. That’s why gardeners love to collect cactus plants in their garden.
It comes in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from the tall & columnar Saguaro cactus of the southwestern United States to the small and round Echinocactus grusonii, also known as the golden barrel cactus.
Facts About Cactus
- Cactus are native to the Americas, from Canada to Patagonia, but have been introduced to other parts of the world as ornamental plants.
- There are around 1,750 known species of cactus in the world, ranging in size from tiny button cacti to towering saguaros.
- The word “cactus” is derived from the Greek word “kaktos,” which means spiny plant.
- Cactus are succulents, meaning they store water in their tissues to survive in arid environments.
- The spines on cactus are actually modified leaves. They are present on the plant to protect them from predators & reduce evapotranspiration.
- Cactus flowers are often brightly colored & fragrant, and are pollinated by bees, hummingbirds, and bats.
- The barrel cactus can store up to 75 liters of water, which it uses to survive during periods of drought.
- The life span of saguaro cactus is over 200 years & they can grow up to 40 feet high.
- Cactus have shallow roots that spread out widely to absorb as much water as possible when it is available.
- Some species of cactus are used for medicinal purposes, such as treating burns and inflammation.
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- The prickly pear cactus produces edible fruit, known as “tunas,” that are used in traditional Mexican cuisine.
- Cactus are often used as ornamental plants in landscaping, as they require minimal water & maintenance.
- They are often used as a symbol of the American Southwest and the deserts of Mexico.
- Cactus have been used for centuries by Native American tribes for food, medicine, & spiritual purposes.
- The famous Saguaro National Park in Arizona is home to over 1.6 million saguaro cacti.
- Cactus are threatened by habitat loss and illegal collection, and many species are endangered.
- The giant barrel cactus can weigh up to 4,800 pounds.
- Cacti are often used in traditional medicine to treat conditions such as diabetes & high cholesterol.
- The peyote cactus contains the psychoactive compound mescaline and has been used in traditional Native American religious ceremonies.
- Cacti can survive in temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 30o Celsius.
- The Blossfeldia liliputana cactus is one of the smallest species of cactus, growing only about 12 mm in diameter.
- Cactus are often used as natural barriers to deter trespassers and animals.
- The prickly pear cactus is the state plant of Texas.
- The cactus wren, found in the American Southwest, is the state bird of Arizona.
- The totem pole cactus gets its name from its tall, columnar shape.
- Cactus are often used in alternative medicine for their purported anti-inflammatory & pain-relieving properties.
- The saguaro cactus can weigh up to 10 tons when fully hydrated.
- Cultivation of cactus started in the 17th Century.
- The organ pipe cactus, named for its multiple arms that resemble organ pipes, is found only in the Sonoran Desert.
- Pine View Nursery in Kalimpong, India has the largest cactus collection in Asia. It has over 1500 varieties of catctus.