When it comes to desert plants, cactus is the king. This is unsurprising since cacti are known to survive – even thrive – in extremely hot and dry habitats. In fact, the majority of cacti are native to dry regions and deserts – particularly in South and North America.
Here are some fun tidbits you need to know about these spiny, bulbous green plants:
Generally, a cactus lives in extremely dry habitats, but few thrive in rainforests and on mountain tops.
There are about 1,800 species of cacti today. For the most part, each species fall under one of the two main cacti groups: opuntias and cactoids.
Cacti come in different sizes and shapes. Some are thin and tall while others are round and short. The shortest cactus only grows about a couple of centimeters high while the tallest one can grow up to 20m. But regardless of their size and shape, all cacti are covered with sharp spines.
There is an edible cactus. It’s called nopales or prickly pear cactus. It’s a vegetable that is quite popular in Mexico, parts of Europe, the Middle East, India, Australia and North Africa. The Nopales has fleshy oval leaves. When cooked, it has a soft yet crunchy texture. Taste-wise, it’s like a tart green pepper.
Cacti can hold tons of water in their stems. Although the water is not pure and clear, it’s still safe for drinking.
Cacti have seasons of excessive growth and periods of dormancy. During the blossoming season, they require direct sunlight, humidity, and high temperature. The sunlight results to the plant’s rapid growth. The spines turn longer and brighter, too. During the dormant period, cacti are kept in a cool area with reduced humidity. There’s also no need for direct sunlight.
It’s possible – and quite easy – to transplant a cactus. But, it must be in March. To transplant, use a small pot filled with a mixture of garden soil, leaf litter, sand, vegetal coal and broken bricks.
Wild cacti are now under threat from illegal collectors, animal grazing, and building developments. The international export of cacti is only possible if the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) provides a permit. Some cactus species are under the restrictive endangered category. They are only exported for scientific purposes.
You can marvel at the beauty of cacti without getting into legal troubles or enduring desert weather. All you need to do is download this pack of cactus photos and you’re good to go.