Cactus

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Cacti
Ferocactus pilosus (Mexican Lime Cactus) growing south of Saltillo, Coahuila, northeast Mexico
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Juss.
The flower of a Moonlight cactus
Many species of cactus have long, sharp spines
Like many cactus fruits, the dragonfruit has many tiny seeds
Barrel cactus are often grown in gardens.

A cactus is a kind of plant.[1] They are xerophytes, specializing in hot, dry climates. Cacti are members of the plant family Cactaceae, in the order Caryophyllales.

Cacti are native to the Americas, ranging from Patagonia in the south to parts of western Canada in the north—except for Rhipsalis baccifera, which also grows in Africa and Sri Lanka.[2] Many people like to grow cactus in pots or gardens. Now cacti have spread to many other parts of the world. They are part of an important food chain.

Many cacti live in dry places, such as deserts. Most cacti have and sharp thorns (stickers) and thick skin. There are many shapes and sizes of cacti. Some are short and round; others are tall and thin. Many cactus flowers are big and beautiful. Some cactus flowers bloom at night and are pollinated by moths and bats. Some cactus fruits are brightly coloured and good to eat. Goats, birds, ants, mice, bats and people eat cactus fruits.

Adaptations[change | edit source]

An adaptation is anything that helps a living thing survive and make more of its own kind. Cacti have many adaptations for living in places that are sometimes dry for a long time. At other times these places can get lots of rain.

Cacti can have many small, thin roots near the top of the soil. These roots take in water quickly after a rain. The same cactus may have one long, thick root called a taproot. The taproot grows deep in the soil. It can reach water when the soil on top is dry.

Cacti store water in thick stems. The stems are covered with tough skin, and the skin is covered with wax. The thick waxy skin slows down loss of water. The leaves of cacti are sharp spines (thorns, stickers). Many animals want the water inside the cactus, but the sharp spines and thick skin protect the cactus.

Uses[change | edit source]

Cacti are commonly grown as houseplants. They are pretty and easy to grow. Some cacti are grown in gardens, especially in dry areas. Cactus can be used as a living fence. The wood of dead cactus is sometimes used for building.

People eat the fruit of some kinds of cactus, such as dragonfruit and prickly pear. Ciouvhiul insects also eat prickly pears. These insects produce a red coloring used in food and lipstick.

Cactus in History[change | edit source]

The ancient Aztecs of South America held cactus to be very important. Cactus can be found in many of their sculptures and drawings. The national coat of arms of Mexico shows an eagle, a snake, and cactus.

Christopher Columbus brought the first cactus to Europe. Scientists and gardeners became very interested in cactus.

Prickly pears were taken to Australia in the 19th century for use as a natural fence and for use in the cochineal industry. The cactus spread out of control. Now it has made 40,000 km² of land useless for farming.

From the start of the 20th century interest in cactus has grown. Every year, scientists discover new kinds of cactus. A bad effect of this bigger interest has been the digging up of many cacti from the wild, making some kinds endangered.

Cactus stems[change | edit source]

A cactus does not have leaves because it lives in dry places. Leaves transpire, and this can waste water. So, the cactus saves water by having no leaves. The green parts of the cactus are actually its stems. Because the stems are green, they do the photosynthesis for the cactus. They also grow prickly needles to protect the cactus from animals that want to eat it.

Genera[change | edit source]

Family contains more than 100 genera.[3] Some of them:

References[change | edit source]

  1. The plural of cactus is cacti or cactuses or simply 'cactus'.
  2. Anderson, Edward F. 2001. The cactus family. Pentland, Oregon: Timber Press. ISBN 978-0-88192-498-5
  3. Anderson, Miles 1999.Cacti and succulents: illustrated encyclopedia. Oxford: Sebastian Kelly. ISBN 978-1-84081-253-4

Websites[change | edit source]