Cactus is a unique plant. It stores a large amount of water, which allows it to survive extreme temperatures. Almost all cacti are native to hot and dry habitats of South and North America. There are almost 2000 different species of cacti. However, being a very attractive plant that comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, cactus become a wildly popular house and garden plant all around the world. Therefore, habitat loss and over-collecting are big treats to cacti surviving in the wild. Because of that, certain species are listed as endangered and trading of most cacti species is forbidden by the law.
Variety of Shapes And Sizes
- Cacti life circle lasts from 15 to 300 years, depending on the species.
- Cacti come in very different sizes. One of the largest species can get 66 feet (20m) high and weigh up to 4800 pounds (2177kg) when fully loaded with water. Smallest species are usually just a few inches high.
- Cacti are used to living in dry areas. Therefore, they can store a great amount of water and store it in stems and roots for surviving drought periods. Besides water storage, stems are also used for photosynthesis, a process of producing food from sunlight and carbon dioxide.
- Roots of the cactus can reach up to 7 feet (2.1m) in diameter, although being just a few inches in the ground. The water is easily passed through the sand, so cacti are focused on low depth of the roots, but vide diametre, to gather as much water as they can.
- Cacti have cylindrical, tree-like, rounded, starfish or irregular shapes. Their surface can be flat or covered in ridges.
- The colors of cacti can be green, brown-green or blueish. On a surface, cactus produces a waxy substance, which prevents loss of water via transpiration (evaporating of the water through small holes during high-temperature periods).
Spines All Over The Place
- Instead of leaves, cacti have spines. They can be soft or rigid, curved or straight, scattered or somewhat arranged. Spines can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) long.
- Each spine grows from the areole. Areoles are bumps or nipple-like structures on the surface of the cactus.
- Spines works to fulfill two major roles- they prevent the plant from losing too much water via transpiration and they keep animals away.
- Cactus spines are used in the production of the hooks, needles, and combs. Some cacti even can be used as food.
- You can safely drink water from the cactus. However, it has a higher density than regular, tap water.
Some Care and Fun Facts
- Trough the year, cacti have dormant periods and periods of intense growth and blooming. When in the growth period, cactus needs enough water and sunlight. These periods usually last much shorter than dormant ones.
- Bees, butterflies, moths, bats, and hummingbirds are the main pollinators of the cacti.
- The shape and size of cactus flowers can be different, which depends on species and type of pollination. They can also be in a variety of colors: red, orange, white, pink, blue, etc.
- Some cacti produce mescaline. This is a substance with a hallucinogenic effect. In the natural habitat of South and Norths America, mescaline has been used by shamans to induce a trans-like state of mind and allow “communicating with God”.