Where Do Cactus Originate From

A cactus is a member of the plant family Cactaceae[a], which has about 127 genera and about 1750 recognized species. Cactaceae belongs to the order Caryophyllales. [4] The Latin word “cactus” is derived from the Ancient Greek word “kktos,” which Theophrastus first used to refer to a spiky plant whose identify is currently unknown. [5] There are many different sizes and shapes of cacti. Most cactus reside in settings that experience at least some drought, despite the fact that some species can tolerate fairly humid situations. Many of them can even be found in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth, where they exist in extremely dry circumstances. Cacti have developed a variety of adaptations to conserve water as a result. As an illustration, nearly all cacti are succulents, which means that their swollen, fleshy sections are designed to store water. Unlike many other succulents, most cacti only have a stem where this crucial process occurs. The majority of cacti species no longer have actual leaves; instead, they only have spines, which are heavily modified leaves. Spines help limit water loss by slowing air movement around the cactus and offering some shade, in addition to protecting it from herbivores. Photosynthesis is performed by cacti’s expanded stems in the lack of real leaves. Except for Rhipsalis baccifera, which also grows in Africa and Sri Lanka, all of the Americas, from Patagonia in the south to sections of western Canada in the north, are home to cacti.

Areoles, a type of greatly shortened branch, are specialized structures that create cactus spines. Cacti can be identified by their areoles. Areoles also produce multipetalled, tubular blooms in addition to spines. Because many cacti have extended dormant periods and short growing seasons, they may respond fast to any rainfall. This is made possible by their large but shallow root systems, which swiftly absorb any water that reaches the ground surface. Because cactus stems are frequently ribbed or fluted, they can easily stretch and contract to quickly absorb water after rain and then hold onto it during protracted droughts. The majority of cacti use a unique process called “crassulacean acid metabolism” (CAM) as part of photosynthesis, similar to other succulent plants. Unlike photosynthesis, which occurs during the day, transpiration—during which carbon dioxide enters the plant and water escapes—occurs at night. The plant converts the carbon dioxide it absorbs into malic acid and stores it there until daybreak, when it is solely used for photosynthesis. The cooler, more humid nighttime hours are when transpiration occurs, which greatly reduces water loss.

The globe-shaped stems of many smaller cacti combine the maximum volume of water storage with the smallest surface area of transpiration loss. The largest[b] free-standing cactus is Pachycereus pringlei, which reaches a maximum height of 19.2 m (63 ft)[7], while Blossfeldia liliputiana has the lowest diameter at maturity, measuring just around 1 cm (0.4 in). [8] During a downpour, a mature saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) is believed to be capable of soaking up 200 US gallons (760 l; 170 imp gal) of water. [9] Only a few species look significantly like the rest of the family. Plants belonging to the genera Leuenbergeria, Rhodocactus, and Pereskia resemble nearby trees and bushes, at least on the surface. They have enduring leaves and, as they age, stems covered with bark. Despite their appearance, they are recognized as cacti by their areoles and have numerous water-saving adaptations. Leuenbergeria is thought to be very closely related to the original species from which all cacti descended. Other cacti develop as forest climbers and epiphytes in tropical areas (plants that grow on trees). Their stems often have fewer or even no spines and are flattened, almost leaf-like in appearance, like the well-known Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus (in the genus Schlumbergera).

Many types of cacti are produced as beautiful plants, while others are raised for fodder or forage, and yet others are utilized as food (particularly their fruit). An bug that lives on some cactus produces cochineal.

Many succulent plants, both in the Old and New Worlds, have spiky stems, including some members of the Euphorbiaceae (euphorbias), which is why they are frequently mistakenly called “cactus.”

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Where did the cactus originate?

Cactus, often known as cacti or cactuses, belongs to the order Caryophyllales and is a family of flowering plants with about 2,000 species and 139 genera. From British Columbia and Alberta southward, cacti are native to most of North and South America; the southernmost portion of their distribution reaches deep into Chile and Argentina. The highest number and variety of species are found in Mexico. The only cactus that might be native to the Old World are Rhipsalis species, which are found in Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and East Africa. Few cactus species exist in tropical or subtropical climes, although the majority do and are well adapted to dry conditions. List of Cactaceae plants is also available.

Where was the original cactus discovered?

One of the most well-known plant families in the world is the cactus family. Each year, thousands of visitors visit the desert to see these uncommon plants’ stunning blooms, thick stems, and unique shapes. As a plant family, cacti exhibit differences among their various species. They can be as small as a three-inch fishhook cactus hiding in a rock crevice or as tall as the saguaro cactus, which can grow to be 30 to 40 feet tall. In the desert, cacti can be found growing on rocky hillsides, alluvial fans, and in arid washes.

Natural History

American plants belonging to the cactus family are not native to Australia, Europe, or Africa. Only two cactus fossils have ever been discovered, therefore very little is known about early cactus plants. The oldest was discovered in Utah and dates back 50 million years. It resembled the prickly pear of today.

Up until around 65 million years ago, when the climate in much of California changed from year-round rainfall to a pattern of rainy summers and dry winters, cactus plants most likely thrived in a tropical environment. The cactus later adapted to the arid, desert conditions when the desert developed as a result of the Sierra Nevada and Peninsular Ranges rising and obstructing rainfall to the eastern valleys.

Cactus are often associated with desert areas, but they can also be found in some unexpected locales. Tall columnar cacti can be found growing among large-leaved trees and hanging vines in the lush, tropical regions of Mexico, South America, and several Caribbean Islands. In the Sierra Nevadas, one species can be seen growing at an elevation of 11,000 feet.

Adaptations to the Desert

The structural modifications of cactus are responsible for their survival in the desert. While similar characteristics like spines and succulent stems may also be found in other desert plants, these evolutionary traits are at their peak in the cactus.

Because their roots are close to the soil’s surface, cacti benefit from the lightest rainfall. The roots swiftly gather the water, which is then stored in sturdy, expanding stems for the protracted summer drought. The barrel cactus’ fleshy stems have accordion-like pleats and contract as moisture is lost. When it rains, these pleats also direct water to the plant’s base.

Many desert plants lose their leaves and go dormant in the summer when water isn’t available. Because they lack leaves and have fixed spines in their structure, cacti continue to photosynthesize. The plant’s nourishment is produced by the green stems, which also lose less water than leaves due to their sunken pores and waxy surface coating. During the day, the pores close, and at night, they open to let some moisture out.

The stems are kept colder than the surrounding air by the extensive network of spines that covers them. Many barrel cacti lean to the south so that the drying effects of the midday sun are minimized on the body surface. Slow growth is the price that cacti pay for these water-saving strategies. In the barrel cactus, growth can be as slow as 1/4 inch each year, and the majority of immature sprouts never mature.

Uses of Cactus

Cactus are a significant source of food and water for many animals, including the bighorn sheep and the antelope ground squirrel. The buckhorn cholla is frequently used as a nesting site by the California thrasher and cactus wren. These birds remove some of the cactus’ spines to make access easier for themselves, but they depend on the remaining spines to protect them from foxes, coyotes, and other predatory birds. The long arms of the saguaro cactus are home to burrows dug by Gila woodpeckers and golden flickers. The abandoned houses in the saguaros are also homes to owls, flycatchers, and starlings.

Native Americans have used many cactus species for thousands of years as food and medicine. During the cooler months, the Cahuilla Indians gathered desired plants. For its deliciousness, they gathered the beavertail cactus’ fruit. Large seeds from the fruit were mashed into a mush after it was cooked for at least 12 hours in a pit with hot stones. When the flesh pads were still young, they were boiled, chopped up, and used as greens.

To avoid getting hurt by the cactus’ harsh spines, native women harvested its buds with gathering sticks. Before being consumed, these buds were typically multiple times parboiled to reduce the bitter taste.

The Cahuilla employed the buckhorn cholla for medical purposes. To speed up the healing process, the stems were burned, and the ashes were applied to injuries and burns.

Where To See Cactus

Cactus are widespread in desert areas and typically bloom from late March to May. The blooms come in a variety of hues, from the rich magenta of the hedgehog cactus to the cream-colored saguaro petals, and from the bright yellow of the prickly pear to the pink of the beavertail cactus.