Cactus plants. We all know what they look like, don't we? Spiky, prickly things that live in a desert. Plants that like hot temperatures.
These facts are both wrong and right! SOME Cacti have spines. They are able to survive hot temperatures and dry, arid conditions. But actually the desert gets really cold at night so these clever plants are able to survive in temperatures that fall below freezing.
Both cacti and succulents have adapted to grow in conditions where there is not much fresh water. The prickles are a deterrent against animals trying to eat them in order to reach the water supplies stored within the plant. Cactus leaves are designed not to lose water and they have shrunk to spines or hairs. Some have completely disappeared! It's the green stems that are able to make food for the plant, rather than the leaves on a shrub, tree or perennial. And these stems have expanded and swollen in order to store water. A bit like a camel that stores food in its hump. Some cacti also store water in their roots.
Succulent plants do have leaves and they are fleshy in order to provide water storage. The leaves are often waxy or covered in a white 'bloom'. Many cacti and succulents wait until it rains before they flower.
DID YOU KNOW:
... That the tallest cactus in the world can reach 20m high (67ft)? ... That a plant known as 'the century plant' only flowers after about 25 years? Then it dies. This is similar to some agaves. ... That the spines of certain 'barrel' cactus are used by local people as fishing hooks?
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