How To Identify Cactus Plants

The physical characteristics of each cactus should be used as a starting point when distinguishing one from another. Some distinguishing physical characteristics to watch for are:

The Leaves

One essential aspect you may want to consider is the cactus plant’s leaves. Do your plants have any spines? You can determine this by examining their leaves. A leaf with spines will have needle-like, sharp edges, while a leaf without spines will have rounded edges. The color and shape of your cacti plant’s leaves can also provide useful information.

Chlorophyll and carotenoids, which are photosynthetic pigments, can be used to determine the color of leaves. Carotenoids give the plants their characteristic colors, whereas chlorophyll is in charge of receiving light energy from the sun and storing it as chemical energy.

Your cactus plant type may also be determined by the shape of the leaves. Succulent plants often have spines and needle-like leaves, whereas flat-leaved plants are typically stronger in nature since they can endure severe situations better. For instance, the leaves of a barrel cactus grow straight, whereas the leaves of a saguaro cactus are flat.

Similar to the shape and color, the different needle styles can also be used to identify the type of cacti you have, albeit the results are not always reliable. The more hardy and leafy kinds will typically have flat spines, whilst the more succulent and squishy forms would typically have needle-like spines.

How high can they grow?

When determining the type of cactus you have, you might also want to consider its height. Because plants that thrive at higher elevations typically have longer roots than those that do not, height and altitude can be utilized as a determining factor when choosing your plant type. The Saguaro Cactus, which may often reach heights of 50 feet, is the tallest of all succulents. Hedgehog and pereskia, on the other hand, are little kinds that rarely grow taller than six inches. You can tell what kind of cactus plant you have by just measuring the height of the plant.

Shape and coloration

When there are no spines or leaves to go by, a cactus’ shape and color can also be utilized to determine its type. Shape typically gives some hints about the plant’s requirements for the climate, which in turn may give more information about the nature of the plant.

Although there are so many different kinds of cactus that you can identify, you might not be able to do so just by looking at it because of its color. Another spiny variety may have a green-brown body, whereas a white-spined barrel cactus may have green. The dwarf saguaro’s yellowish hue stands out sharply from, for example, the brown spines on a barbed wire cactus.

As you can see, there are a lot of physical characteristics to watch out for that could reveal what species of cactus plant your plants are. One piece of advice is to explore further if you notice something peculiar or unusual about a particular species because it might be what you’ve been looking for.

How are its flowering style and pattern?

The way a plant blooms is another physical characteristic that will reveal whether it is a terrestrial or epiphytic plant. While terrestrial plants have roots and require direct connection to soil, epiphytes are plants that thrive in humid regions with little soil contact and depend on other plants for nutrition.

Another sign of a cactus’ kind is the way its flowers are arranged. The saguaro and barrel both feature radial patterns, while the hedgehog is another plant with radial patterns but more elongated ones. A species that forms columns, like the cardon, may have vertical stripes or zigzags with contrasting color patterns.

The most likely form of cactus you have is a cardon if it is columnar and has vertical stripes of contrasting colors. On the other hand, if your cactus has radial patterns and spines, it is probably either the barrel or saguaro type.

Although it’s not always reliable, the color of the flowers might also give you a hint about what kind of cactus your plant is. For instance, a hedgehog may have yellow blooms, or a kind of flower with a red top may be a cardon.

What about the seeds?

Depending on their environment, different cactus species generate different seeds. For instance, the Saguaro cactus produces smaller, fleshier seed pods, whereas the hedgehog produces much larger, spiky fruit. While the cardon is known to produce seeds that are round and glossy, some varieties, like the barrel cactus, will have a more oval or spherical appearance.

These various seed pod varieties can provide you hints about the kind of cactus you might grow in your garden. Perhaps after a lengthy development period, your plant that you’ve had for a while isn’t blossoming or generating any flowers? Even before planting, it may be quite beneficial to look at the seeds, since they might provide important details about the type of plant. If your cactus isn’t flowering or generating any flowers over a lengthy time of growth, it may not be blossoming due to its type or the climatic circumstances that type loves. Different cactus species generate different seed pods.

Is there a cactus identification app?

The best app for identifying flowers, cacti, succulents, and mushrooms is called PlantSnapi. The program searches through a database of more than 600,000 plants using image recognition software that is powered by machine learning.


Software for automatic pattern recognition powers this. It states that it can detect 99 percent of common species with an accuracy rating of 95 percent. The app’s searchable database also includes more than 10,000 species.

Researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution created Leafsnap. It employs visual recognition software to distinguish between different tree species based on how their leaves look. Currently, the app features trees from Canada and the Northeastern United States.

What three varieties of cactus are there?

Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus, and Easter cactus are the three popular holiday cacti, each of which is called after the season in which its blooms occur. All three are straightforward to cultivate and have comparable growth patterns and maintenance needs.

Today’s holiday cactus variations are available in magenta, pink, scarlet, as well as yellow, white, orange, purple, salmon, and apricot, however these well-known cacti are typically only available in red-hued hues. The Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are tropical rain forest species, while the Easter cactus is indigenous to Brazil’s natural woods. All three are endemic to Brazil.

Is the plant I have a succulent or cactus?

What distinguishes a succulent from a cactus? The only plant that can survive in a hot south window, where the light shines through the glass intensified, is a cactus. Any plant that stores water in juicy leaves, stems, or roots to resist recurring droughts is considered a succulent. Some people accept non-fleshy desert plants while others exclude plants with flesh, such as epiphytic orchids (yuccas, puyas).

Cactus is merely a type of succulent that can hold moisture and is classified separately from other succulents (cacti is the plural form of cactus in Latin) (Cactaceae). On the other hand, not every succulent is a cactus. In addition to being close relatives of the pointsetta, geranium, lily, grape, amaryllis, crassula, daisy, and milkweed, succulents are members of approximately 40 botanical families that are distributed throughout the world.

The name “cactus” derives from the Greek word “kaktos,” which means “spiny plant.” The ancient Greeks used this word to describe a species that was actually an artichoke variety rather than a cactus. 2000 years later, Linnaeus, who classified plants, gave a family of plants with distinctive characteristics like thick stems that served as water reservoirs, prickly or hairy coverings, and few, if any, leaves the name Cactaceae.

Cacti are simple to spot. They rarely have leaves because they have to work so hard to stay alive. They have stems that have been altered into cylinders, pads, or joints that store water during dry spells. Skin thickness lowers evaporation. For defense against browsing animals, the majority of species have bristles or spines, but some lack them, and others have long hair or a woolly covering. Large and vibrant flowers are the norm. Fruit may be both edible and colorful.

Every cactus has leaves when it is still a seedling. Additionally, some plants briefly produce tiny leaves on their new growth each spring. The majority of cactus progressively lost their leaves as shifting climatic patterns transformed native environments into deserts, evaporating too much limited water into the dry air. They switched to storing the water that was available in their stems. To adapt the size of their evaporation surfaces to changing conditions, many may modify their shape. When moisture is abundant, ribs that resemble an accordion can extend; when there is a drought, they can contract.

The majority of succulents, such as aloes, hawthorias, crassulas, and echeveria, originated in environments with less harsh conditions than cactus, such as those with rainy seasons followed by protracted dry seasons. They all have leaves. Their leaves gradually grew fattened by water-storing tissues and covered in a waxy or horny substance that lessens evaporation from the surface to help them get through the dry spells.

From Canada, through Central America, the West Indies, and south to the chilly regions of Chile and Patagonia, the cactus (Cactaceae) family can be found (southern end of South America). The largest collection may be in Mexico, but there are also a large number in the western deserts of the United States and at higher elevations in the Cordilleras of Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.

The majority of succulents are native to milder, semi-desert regions of the planet (Mexico, South Africa). Some (such as sedums and sempervivums) are native to cooler regions where they thrive on sunny, rocky ledges and slopes. Although there are many succulents around the world, not all succulents are desert plants. They can be found on mountains, in jungles, and next to bodies of water. Succulents can be found in semi-arid parts of North and South America, Asia, and Africa, but many also live in rain forests. Succulents can be found in the mountains where they can survive inclement weather, strong winds, and poor soil. Aeonium is a succulent native to Africa, the Canary and Madeira Islands; Agave is a succulent native to the Americas; Aloe is a succulent native to Africa, the Mediterranean, and Atlantic islands; Cotyledon is a succulent native to semi-arid regions of Africa; Crassula is a succulent native to mostly Africa; Dudleya is a succulent native to coastal California and Mexico; Faucaria is a succulent native to South Africa; Sempervivum: North Africa, Asia Minor, and Central and Southern Europe.