Everything about cactuses can fascinate us; their incredible tolerance for drought, their low maintenance attitude, exotic shapes, gorgeous flowers, and many more. Most of us simply know them as hardy plants, by there are a lot of interesting cactus facts.
The name “Cactus” comes from the Greek word Kaktos (prickly plant of Sicily), a Spanish artichoke. However, later they found out that the cactus is actually a different plant with its unique characteristics.
Here are some fascinating facts about different types of cactus:
Cactus Fact #1: You Can Find Them in Different Shapes and Colors
You can find these succulents in a variety of shapes and colors. They can be cylindrical, rounded, starfish, etc. with flat or ridged surfaces. And they are not always green. They may be brown-green, blue-green, or even purplish, red, orange, yellow, and white.
Different types of cactus also vary greatly when it comes to dimension. Some of them are huge and heavy (about 20 m and more than 2000 kg), and some of them are less than 10 inches.
Cactus Fact #2: They Are Extremely Drought-Tolerant
One of the interesting facts about cacti that all of us are familiar with is their incredible ability to store water in their stems, roots, and leaves. Interestingly, the title of “succulent” in their name, refers to their ability for storing liquid.
Note: All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti!
In their natural habitat, they can store enough water for a whole year. In fact, in some species, the water value can reach up to 90% of the plant’s weight. This temperature mostly depends on the humidity of the environment.
The amazing thing is that they don’t need a lot of time to store such amounts of water. Their root system is shallow and transverse across a large area. So they soak up the rainwater quickly before it is evaporated by the harsh sunlight of the desert.
They also photosynthesize at night to lose even less water. Their waxy coating has the same function as well.
Cactus Fact #3: Their Spines Have Incredible Functions
Instead of leaves, these lovely plants have spines. Different types of cactus have different types of spines. For example, straight, curved, needle-like, bristle-like, and hair-like to name a few.
It is especially a curios matter since plants owe their growth and survival to the leaves. So what do these spines offer that makes them more suitable than leaves?
They Protect the Plant
The spines are actually not there to stop you from touching the plant or hurting pets and children. In their natural habitat, the flesh of the cactus can attract many hungry animals. The spines are the defense mechanism; against both herbivores and poachers.
They also ensure propagation, which is essential for the growth of new plants in all species; keeping them safe from different threats.
However, spines are not the only thing that protects these species. Spines keep the bigger creatures away. But when comes to smaller ones such as mealybugs, these are ants who help the cactus. The cacti attract ants by producing nectar.
They Help in Collecting Water
The cacti do all they can to conserve water. In addition to their root system, the spines also help collect water in fog by turning it into the water and make it trickle down on the ground, and the roots will absorb it. They also trap the air and break its flow to prevent further water loss.
They Provide Shade
All types of cactus come from hot deserts, but that doesn’t mean that they prefer the harsh sunlight all the time. The spines provide shads in the extremely hot climate in deserts and prevent the plant moisture from drying out.
Cactus Fact #4: Not All Cacti Grow in Deserts
One of the interesting facts about cactus is that they can also be found in other climates as well. These highly adaptive succulents can also thrive in different climates such as the tropics and snow-clad mountains.
Cactus Fact #5: Some Types of Cactus Can Live for 300 years
As you saw, these succulents are equipped with everything that is in need in extreme situations. Depending on the species, these amazing plants can live from 15 to 300 years.
Cactus Fact #6: They Are Mostly Edible
Not only you can enjoy their fruit, you can also eat the great parts by frying, grilling, or steaming them. However, there are some species that can intoxicate you.
Although edible, you cannot drink this plant and quench your thirst, as some of the cartoons suggest. When you open a cactus, you’re only going to find a thick gel that is impossible to drink.
Even if you manage to extract water from it, note that it has high amounts of acids and alkaloids. This means that the cactus water is going to be bitter, and hurt your kidneys.
This actually makes sense. If this wasn’t true, different types of cactus would have a hard time surviving among thirsty animals in the desert.
Cactus Fact #7: You Can Use Them to Make Furniture
The fact that you can consume them is not the only interesting cactus fact. Some parts of some of the cacti (such as Column cacti) become hard and wood-like over time and are a great choice for making furniture.
The advantages of cactus wood include lack of knotholes, being completely straight, flexible, and very stable. Until today, only people in Latin America build furniture from this type of wood.
Other Cactus Facts
- Cacti are flowering plants, but it depends heavily on their environment and condition (light, fertilization, watering, propagation, temperature, etc.).
- Main pollinators of different types of cactus include bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and also bats.
- In the wild, cactuses can get quite tall and heavy. So be careful around them and avoid harming them. In 1982, a man in Arizona shot at a 27-feet cactus multiple times to destroy it. The result was tragic, as the cactus fell on him and killed him instantly.
- All cacti are low-maintenance and are great choices as a house plant. They even pair perfectly with forgetful owners. They decorate your place in their unique way, as well as purifying the air.