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Cactus Plant Facts

A cactus is a plant that grows where the soil is dry and rocky—most usually in the desert.

A cactus doesn’t have leaves like other plants do.

A cactus has spines or thorns.

The plural word for cactus is cacti.

There are about 2,000 different types of cactuses found in the world.

Some are thin and very, very tall, and others are short and round like a ball…a very spikey ball.

There are even cacti that look like bushes and some that look like ping pong paddles.

Cactus Facts for Kids

  • There are about 2000 types of cacti
  • Cactus are xerophytes, specializing in hot, dry climates.
  • Cactus lifespan is somewhere in the ranges from 10 to 200 years
  • Many cacti live in dry places, such as deserts
  • A cactus plant can be very small or very big
  • The saguaro cactus is the largest cactus in the United States
  • The tallest saguaro cactus ever was over 78 feet tall
  • You will find lots of cacti in Arizona and California.
  • The spikes on the outside can be very sharp.
  • Some spikes can be even poisonous to humans.
  • Some cacti are edible especially from the 200+ Opuntia species
  • They are very good at conserving water, especially during long dry periods.
  • The outside of a cactus is a waxy skin texture that helps it hold in water.
  • Cactus flowers can be yellow, red, pink, white, orange, or blue.
  • Some cactus can be eaten and some grow fruit.
  • The vast majority of cacti have no visible leaves.
  • Scientists have discovered fossils of cacti dating back 25 million years.
  • The cactus can also be used for fodder for animals once the spines have been removed.
  • In some countries like India, they will use to cut this in herbal medicine.
  • Some cactus have been found in rainforests and even in countries like Canada.

What is a Cactus Plant? 

The cactus plural word is cacti. It’s a tap-rooted plant; however, its root is stronger and longer compared to other related plants’ roots. This enables it to find and drink water deep in the ground. 

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After soaking water, the taproot holds on to it and sends a little at a time to the rest of the plant. Cactus has some other small roots that run close to the ground surface; they soak up any rainwater that falls. 

Cacti are tasty perpetual plants containing woody chlorophyll or thick herbaceous stems. This type of plant adapts to dry and hot climates. It is distinguished from other juicy plants by their small cushion-like structures, barbed or spine bristles, and areoles presence. 

Cactus stores water in its leaves, roots, and stems; therefore, even if it doesn’t rain for long, it has enough water to help it develop. This plant can go without rain for over a year. Thanks to its water storage ability. 

Cacti is from the Cactaceae family. It has 127 genera, with more than 1750 known species, of which most of them are American natives. Some cacti genera include:

  • Myrtillocactus 
  • Schlumbergera 
  • Gymnocalycium 

The plant reproduces by seed method. Its flowers are colorful, large, beautiful, and generally solitary. They are pollinated by moths, bats, and butterflies. The fruit is typically a berry and comprises many seeds. 

Its leaves aren’t like other plants’ leaves.

There are many sizes and shapes of cacti. Some are thin and tall, and others are round and short. 

What Are Some Uses Of Cacti?

Cacti are usually grown as houseplants and broadly cultivated as ornaments. In various species, particularly chollas and prickly pears (Cylindopuntia and Opuntia, respectively) are brightly colored and good to eat. The prickly pear juice and pads are high in vitamins and fiber and low in calories. They can help in the cutting down of your weight. 

Cacti can be boiled, fried, served in soup or salad. In countries like Mexico, it is packed and stored in grocery as food. 

In South and Central America, Opuntia species and others are used as living hedges. In some desert areas, columnar cacti wood is used as fuel. 

In the drought period, cacti spines, such as mandacaru, are removed and used as hay for livestock. 

You can use cactus to make needles, hooks, and combs. 

Generally, various cactus species are used as traditional medicine and herbs. 

How Does The Cactus Plant Look Like?

Cacti are of different types, and they come in diverse sizes, colors, and shapes. The majority are in green color, while some may be brown-green or bluish. Some are flat like a pancake, while others are round in shape. You’ll find several shaped like starfish or snakes. 

A cactus plant may grow as big as an elephant or as small as a rat. The largest cacti type can grow to 66 feet tall and weigh up to 4800 pounds. Wow! That means it can grow as tall as a giraffe and be as heavy as a car!

Many people have described a cactus plant, that it is as ugly as a dirty pig, covered with spikes; but do you know what, this plant is beautiful! Its flowers are of color red, yellow, orange, blue or white. Aren’t these wonderful colors? 

Some of these flowers blossom for a day, but others last for weeks. Other flowers are nocturnal; this means they blossom only during the night. 

Cactus indeed have spikes, but they are generally known as spines, and they act as leaves. The spines help the cactus survive. The sharp spines distract birds and animals away from the plant. They also help retain the plant’s stored water from escaping.

Although cactus spines may be unpleasant to look at, they are important to the plant. You need to be careful with some cacti spines since they are not only poky and sharp but also toxic! 

Some various forms of spines include:

  • Needle-like 
  • Curved 
  • Bristle-like
  • Straight 
  • Hooked
  • Hair-like 
  • Round 
  • Awl-like 

Spines play an important role in plants, including:

Air Trapping

Spines help break airflow around a cactus plant by creating a buffer that hinders water evaporation. Airflow leads to water loss.

Water Collection 

Spines help in collecting water in foggy deserts. How? The fog that lands on the spines later turns into water that drops down on the ground beneath. The roots of the plant then absorb this water for storage. 

Protection 

In the desert, many herbivores feed on desert plants. Cactus isn’t an exception. Due to its fleshy appearance, cactus attracts many animals, and this is where the importance of spines come in. 

To the cactus, spines act as a defense mechanism. Upon close contact, its needles pierce the skin deeply. A cacti puncture is tremendously painful for any animal or human being to endure. If an animal or even human beings are pierced by the cacti prickly needles, it’s hard to remove the spine from the skin, and this may lead to major infections. 

Where Do Cactus Plants Grow?

If your answer is “the desert,” Then you are correct. The majority of cacti grow in deserts or hostile regions / dry areas. Reason – they like rocky, dry soil. Nevertheless, a few species are found in Northern states like Canada and in rainforest regions. 

The most known states for cacti are California, Texas, and Arizona. Reason – in these states, there are plenty of national parks and deserts, where many cactus can grow. When flowers begin to blossom between March and May, visitors come from different regions to see the magic experience of cactus as they look smart and welcoming. 

What Are Some Factors That Can Affect Your Cactus Blooming Performance?

  • Watering
  • Lightning 
  • Fertilization 
  • Temperature 
  • Planting method (whether from rooting a branch or seed)

How does the cactus plant survive in the desert areas? The cacti have waxy skin, which helps them hold water that aids in their survival in dry areas/hostile climates.  

Is The Cacti Water Safe For Drinking?

Cacti water is thicker than the normal water you drink.

Though it’s tasteless, it’s safe for drinking. Drinking cactus water has saved many people’s lives – those who come to tour in the desert or live therein. 

Are Cacti Easy To Grow?

Growing and caring for a cactus plant is easy since they require very little water. They like sunny weather, so if you live in areas where it gets cold during the winter, you need to keep the plant inside the house to get enough warmth for them to survive outside.

It’s essential to understand that growing a cactus plant can be a waiting game. Unlike some potted plants, which sprout within few weeks, the cactus needs patience. It grows slowly since it doesn’t have chlorophyll leaves, which helps in quick plant food production. 

The plant’s main focus is not on reproduction but on survival. The fact is that if it had real leaves like other plants, it would lose a lot of moisture in the process of food production hence it wouldn’t survive in harsh environments. 

What Should You Do To Keep The Cacti Happy And Prolong Its Life? 

  • Avoid overwatering. This may lead to root decay. Water the plant once per week in summer, then once per two/three weeks in other seasons.
  • Place them in areas with natural lighting. Avoid window sills as they may cause discoloration and sunburns. 
  • Grow your plant in clay containers. Plastic containers hold water for a long time and this may be harmful to the plant.
  • Consider the right temperatures. For cactus to stay strong and healthy, opt for optimum temperatures. During fall and winter, the right temperatures would be between 45 and 55 degrees, while in summer the plant will do good in temp of between 65 and 95 degrees.  
  • Let the roots breathe by perlite, small gravel, or coarse sand.  
  • Use proper potting soil that is rich in nutrients and well-drained for the plant to thrive and appear healthy. 

How Long Can A Cactus Plant Live? 

Cacti can live for fifteen years, but some may live for even 300 years. It depends on how you care for the plant. 

Is a Cactus a Succulent?

A cactus is a succulent.

A succulent is a plant that has spongy roots and leaves.

They have spongy roots and leaves so they can hold the water they get and save it for later.

They have to be able to do this because most cacti live in hot, dry areas that don’t get much rain.

The taproot (main root) on a cactus is longer and stronger than the taproot of most plants.

This lets a cactus find and drink water that is deep down in the ground.

The taproot soaks up the water and holds on to it; sending little drinks at a time to the rest of the plant.

Cactus also has lots and lots of small roots that run close to the surface of the ground.

This lets the roots soak up any rain that falls quickly.

Do Cacti Flower?

Most cacti produce flowers.

The flowers a cactus produces can be as small as a dime or as large as a dinner plate.

Cactus flowers are also very colorful; bright yellow and pink, deep red and orange.

Some even have white flowers or striped flowers.

Some cactus flowers last for a few days or even weeks like other flowers do.

But some cactus flowers only last for a few hours.

The spines or thorns on many cacti are poisonous.

Getting poked by them can make you feel dizzy, cause you to lose feeling where you were poked, or even make you sick.

Can You Eat Cacti?

Many kinds of cacti are edible.

This means you can eat them.

The juice and pads of the prickly pear (minus the spines, of course) is a favorite food for people living in Mexico and other countries in Central and South America.

The juice and pads of prickly pear are low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins.

They fill you up without making you gain weight.

The juice is full of vitamin C—just like oranges.

Figs Fruit

Are Cacti Easy to Grow?

Cacti are easy to grow and take care of because they need so little water.

They love the sun, but if you live somewhere where it gets cold in the winter, you can bring them into your house and they will be fine until it gets warm enough for them to go back outside.

Cacti can live for many, many years, though, so be sure you are willing to take care of them for a long, long time.