Cactus. Common name of any member of the cactus family (cactaceae). There are 120 genera with perhaps 1,700 species, almost all native to America . Cacti are among the most aridity-resistant plants and therefore thrive in very arid regions. The group is characterized by its fleshy shape, the presence of thorns and spikes, as well as its large , brightly colored solitary flowers . There is a great variety of shapes and patterns, and many species are cultivated as ornament or curiosity. Some have edible fruit. The Saguaro ( Cereus giganteus ) from Arizona and Sonora It is the longest of the cacti, reaching a height of 21 m (70 ft).


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  • 1 Cacti, succulent plants
  • 2 Etymology
    • 1 Subfamilies
  • 3 Botanical aspects of succulent plants
  • 4 Why do cacti have thorns?
  • 5 Families
    • 1 Scientific classification
  • 6 Synonymy
  • 7 Cacti are ugly, and besides … they prick!
  • 8 Advantages of growing Cactus
  • 9 Irrigation
  • 10 References
  • 11 Sources

Cacti, succulent plants

It is very difficult to give advice on the cultivation of these plants when the fans are in almost all the countries of the world, because they are faced with different weather conditions. The use of greenhouses or the

Obregoniadenegrii cactus

growing under glass to keep our plants in perfect condition. Even so, there will be certain variations that affect the minimum winter temperatures, so the rules given here should be slightly modified in places where Greenhouses are not necessary or only for more delicate plants.


The word cactus derives from the Greek Κάκτος káktos, first used by the philosopher Theophrastus to name a species of spiny thistle that grew on the island of Sicily , possibly the thistle Cynara cardunculus.

Curiously, there are also two poetic references from antiquity on this floor. Thus, the poet Theocritus of Syracuse wrote in his Idylls: “They leave you as a sheep of the flock, whose leg has been bitten by a cactus.” Likewise, Filetas, a poet from the island of Kos , wrote about her: “Those who have lost the affection of a mule, for fear of the thorny cactus wounds, must regret it”

The word passed to the Latin like cactus through Pliny the Elder , who in his Naturalis Historia took up what Theophrastus wrote about this plant that grew in Sicily . From cactus derived the Latin word carduus, which finally gave rise to the Spanish thistle.

During the Middle Ages the word cactus was the usual name for the edible artichoke. Later, it was used as a generic name Cactus by Carlos Linneo in 1753 , within which it grouped 22 plants that today are considered within diverse genera of the Cactaceae family .


The family is divided into four subfamilies: Pereskioideae (provided with well-formed leaves), Opuntioideae (to which the prickly pear or nopal belongs), Maihuenioideae (restricted to Argentina and Chile) and Cactoideae (the one with the highest species richness)

Botanical aspects of succulent plants

Cacti belong to the Cactaceae family and are a very young group of plants with respect to the age of the Earth . They normally have areolas or a cover of thorns and withstand dryness.

Succulent plants are those that have tissues on their leaves or branches in which water accumulates, and also cacti. Some bulbous plants are also considered succulent because they store water in their roots. There are many succulent plants with thorny formations. These are called xerophytic or plants that support drought.

There are plants that instead of forming water accumulating tissues, have developed another system to withstand drought as some that form a small layer for protection against evaporation, a reduction of leaf surfaces, or displacement of stomata on the underside of the leaf or in indentations in the beam of the leaf. There are also plants that roll up the leaves in drought to reduce perspiration.

Most cacti are succulent on the stem, this means that they have a soft stem capable of storing water. The surface of the stems has a waxy outer layer, which reduces the loss of water by evaporation. Its ribbed structure is thus to swell when water is absorbed. In times of dryness they contract to a certain point.

Why do cacti have thorns?

Cactus variety

The more thorns the cactus has, the greater the protection against the sun. Moisture can also condense on the spines, whereby the droplets that form fall to the ground and are absorbed by the roots. Some plants form shoots that are easily detached and their hook-shaped spines catch on the skin of some animals and are thus transported for miles where they fall and form a new plant. Thorns are transformed leaves that vary in shape and size and spring from the areolas.


Plant families differ from each other by the shape and color of the flowers. In cacti, this is not always the case. The fruit in which the seeds are found is unilocular. Some fruits, when ripe, have a color and smell that attracts birds and other animals . These eat the fruit and the seeds are widely propagated.

Scientific classification

They belong to the Cactaceae family (Cactaceae).
Species with well-formed leaves are classified into the genera Pereskia and Pereskiopsis. Saguaro and cacti with night blooming belong to the genus Cereus . The Christmas cactus is Schlumbergera bridgesii. The prickly pear or prickly pear species are Opuntia ficus-indica and O. vulgaris.


  • Cereaceae
  • Leuctenbergiaceae
  • Nopaleaceae
  • Opuntiaceae
  • Annex: Genera of Cactaceae [1]

Cacti are ugly, and besides … they puncture!

Cacti are not ugly. Its shapes and blooms are very attractive. Its cultivation does not present major problems if you have minimal knowledge of its needs. There are many collectors in Spain , throughout its geography, who keep their cacti in perfect condition despite having bad weather. Simply with minimal knowledge, you can choose the plants that seem most suitable to us based on local weather conditions. There are cacti from Andean areas of Chile and Peru that spend the whole winter under snow and can resist up to temperatures of -20 ° below zero.

Cacti are also abundant in arid and desert areas where they can last for several years without a drop of water, or they are also grown in jungle and tropical areas, such as epiphytic cacti, which, on the contrary, spend much of the year under heavy rains and with a constant very high humidity.

Advantages of growing Cactus

You don’t need a large space to hold a collection. For example, in just one square meter of any terrace they can have 64 12 cm pots. If you have a garden, in just a few years you can enjoy a magnificent collection.

A Cactus is not a Bonsai , but they can be adapted to vegetate in small pots if we choose dwarf species that only grow a few centimeters but produce spectacular blooms.

It is difficult to get bored with cacti: There are more than 2,500 different species. Adding the best-known varieties and hybrids, you can easily come up with over 10,000 different forms.

The situation of the cacti in their places of origin is the least delicate. These plants have often been wildly collected for illegal trafficking on commercial circuits in rich countries and are, many of them, endangered, increasingly appearing on CITES lists of protected species.


Knowing how to water correctly is something that is acquired through experience and after the sacrifice of some plants. There are no rules regarding how often you have to water. It depends on many factors. For example:

  • If you get more or less sun.
  • If it is more or less hot.
  • If it rains a lot or a little.
  • The type of substrate: there are more sandy and dry than others more compact.
  • If the pot is big or small, or if it is made of clay or plastic (the clay “transpires”, the plastic does not).

If you cultivate on land, outdoors, you can water once a week in summer. During the spring and autumn with the rains perhaps it is not even necessary to water (I repeat, in soil, in a pot it is different). In the event that such rainfall does not occur, contribute every 15 days. In winter, no watering or some very sporadic in general. Of course, when the temperature is less than 10ºC, Cacti and other Crassas should not be watered due to the risk of decay. If the crop is potted, during the spring and fall, water every 15 days and wait a week after the substrate dries. During the summerWhen you see the substrate dry, water. Remember that clay pots dry faster than plastic ones. According to the latter data, a clay or plastic pot, there are plants that can be grown throughout the year outdoors and others must be sheltered in a greenhouse during the winter so that they do not receive too much rainwater .


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