What do you think of when you think of a cactus? I think of desert plants with sharp thorns. There is so much to learn about cactus plants. Here are interesting cactus facts for kids.
The word cactus means spiny plant. It is actually a type of succulent plant. If there is more than one cactus you say cacti. A cactus plant lives in dry areas and hot climates.
Cacti grow naturally in dry climates and many people have them as house plants.
Cacti plants have thick skin, thick stems, and sharp spines. Skin of a cactus is a waxy outer covering. The waxy substance protects the surface of the cactus. The stem of a cactus is like the leaf of a regular plant. The sharp spines are little prickles. Spines of cactus help protect the plant from herbivores (animals that eat plants).
There are many varieties and different shapes of cacti. Some are short and some are tall. Some have beautiful flowers or fruit.
What a Cactus Needs
Fun Cactus Facts
Adaptations are things that plants and animals do to help them live better and longer. Cacti live in dry places that go a long time without much water and then at other times have large amounts of water.
Cacti have thin roots near the top of the soil. These roots will soak up water quickly if it rains. Each cactus has one long root that can get water that is deep down in the ground if it hasn’t rained in awhile and there isn’t enough water toward the top.
Cacti go dormant in Fall and Winter months. This means they save energy and stop growing. It’s kind of like when animals hibernate.
Types of Cacti
The Saguaro Cactus is the most common species of cactus growing in southern Arizona. Saguaro cacti is tall and looks like a tree with smaller branches coming from it. This type of cactus is actually the tallest cactus in the United States. It can grow up to 40 feet tall and live about 150 years. The saguaro blossom is made up of white flowers. The cactus flowers don’t bloom until the cactus is about 35 years old.
Prickly Pear Cactus
The pads of the prickly pear cactus are usually round or oval shaped. They store water for the cactus. The flowers that bloom on the prickly pear cactus are red, purple, or yellow. Their heights are different. They can be as short as 1 foot to as tall as 6 feet tall.
The elephant cactus is the largest cactus species. It is big and solid like the leg of an elephant.
The hedgehog cactus is short and spiny like a hedgehog. It grows in clumps and each stem is about 12 inches tall. It grows best in sandy and rocky soil. The hedgehog cactus has colorful flowers and edible fruit.
The barrel cactus is a large cylinder shape with wavy lines on it. They are endangered in the wild.
Organ Pipe Cactus
This type of cactus is about 20 feet tall and looks like it has several arms or branches coming out of its base in the ground. It has a lot of brown spines.
Important Source of Food
Cacti is actually an important food source for insects, animals, and even people!
Many desert animals depend on the nectar of the Saguaro cactus such as reptiles, birds, and bats. Squirrel, antelope, and even bighorn sheep love to eat cacti.
People are actually eating the fruit of the cactus when they eat prickly pear or dragonfruit. The pads of a prickly pear cactus are eaten as a vegetable. You may see it called Nopalito in your grocery store.
Insects feed on the pads of the prickly pear cacti.
- Did you know that people in Arizona have to get a permit if they want to cut down a Saguaro cactus?
- Every year scientists discover new types of cacti.
- If a cactus has small holes on it, it probably had too much water.
- Hummingbirds, bees, and bats help pollinate cacti.
- In some parts of the world cacti are used for medicine.
- Blossfeldia liliputana is the smallest species of cactus in the world
Did you know that many species of cacti are at risk of extinction? That means that there are very few of this type of plant left and could die off completely. The most common reason for them to be endangered is because of habitat loss. As people build and expand into new areas, the cacti lose their homes.
We hope you learned something new about different types of cacti.