Why Do Cacti Conserve Water

Cacti have numerous adaptations that enable them to survive in arid climates; these adaptations enable the plant to efficiently gather water, store it for a long time, and conserve it (minimizing water loss from evaporation).

Cacti have thick, succulent stems with rigid walls that store water when it rains. The stems are fleshy, green, and photosynthetic. Either the stem’s inside is spongey or hollow (depending on the cactus). The water inside the cactus is prevented from evaporating by a thick, waxy layer.

Long, fibrous roots are common in cactus, and these roots take moisture from the earth. Some cacti, such as ball cacti, have smaller, more compact roots that can capture dew that falls from the cactus.

Most cacti feature scales or spines in place of leaves (which are modified leaves). These scales and spines do not evaporate their water (unlike regular leaves, which lose a lot of water). Predators (animals that would like to consume the cactus to gain food and/or water) are kept at bay by the spines. On a cactus, areoles are a circular collection of spines. An areole is where flowers bud, and it is also where new stems branch.

Cacti conserve water?

The ability of this plant to efficiently absorb, store, and use water over an extended period of time is the key.

So where do cacti keep their water? Cactuses primarily store water in collapsible water storage cells that are located in the stem. However, certain cactuses have modified roots that can also serve as water reservoirs. The stem’s holes or spaces are collapsible water-storage cells, which can hold onto water for a considerable amount of time.

Additionally, there are ribs or flutes, which provide the water somewhere to stay. As the cactus is fully swollen, the ribs/flutes are invisible, but they become apparent when the stem contracts.

Cacti require water in order to exist, much like all other living things. Water, however, is frequently in short supply because of the places where it grows. This plant has evolved a wide range of unique skills that enable it to store the little water that it receives for a reasonably long period of time in order to make up for this and adapt to the scorching temperatures. For instance, cacti’s needle-like spines are highly modified leaves that serve as both a defense against predators and a water conservation measure by limiting airflow around the plant.

Why do cactus stems contain water?

The desert thorn-apple is an annual plant, which means it grows for a brief period of time before producing seeds and dying. The following year, the seeds will grow into a plant. picture by Neelix

Succulents are cacti and other plants that store a lot of water to help them survive the dry seasons. These plants soak up as much water as they can after even mild rains, storing the water in enormous storage regions in the roots, leaves, or plant stems.

Only during the wet season do some plants survive and flourish, and these plants then produce seeds that can survive the dry season. These plants are annuals since they come again every year, therefore the name. As a result, the adult plant, which transpires more water than a seed, stays out of the hot, dry conditions of the dry seasons.

However, during the dry season, some perennial plants, which are plants that exist for several years, may go dormant or inactive.

Sharp spines are used by many cacti to help shade the plant and deter some animals from eating it. Photograph by William Warby.

During the dry season, many desert plants either lose their ability to hold large amounts of water, perish, or go dormant. In contrast, these plants can endure the hottest and driest times of the year.

These plants are able to survive in the desert thanks to a few distinct strategies. The cactus and certain other plants’ pointed spines serve to screen the plant from the sun and keep it cool. Some plants, such as mesquite trees, develop extraordinarily long tap roots that can descend more than 100 feet to obtain groundwater, which is water that is stored deeply underground.

Why do cactus spines aid in water conservation?

Being a desert plant, your goal is to prevent water reduction. As strange as it may appear, cactus spines really work to prevent water loss in cacti.

Cactus spines primarily stop cacti from losing water by decreasing air flow around the plant. Air flow is broken up by spines, which can aid in lowering evaporation. A buffer zone with air that is a little bit more humid can also be produced by the trapped air surrounding the cactus.

This is significant because plants lose a lot of water as it evaporates off their leaves.

How do cacti take in water?

Water plays a crucial role in many metabolic processes and is necessary for both plant and animal survival. Cacti that are raised in dry climates have evolved natural water management systems, such as the ability to gather water through their spines, absorb it through their trichomes, and store it in their mucilage. The way cacti collect water is well known, but less is known about how they absorb and store that water. Therefore, this work used in vitro studies on an artificial system simulating these structures using modern bio-imaging techniques to investigate the shape and wettability of cactus trichomes. Additionally, a quantitative image of the trichome cluster’s in situ water absorption process was created. This research makes a new bio-inspired dew collection technique suggestion based on knowledge of cactus water management techniques. The experimental database needed to create a bio-inspired water management system is provided by this work, which also covers the fundamental water absorption and storage techniques of cacti.

Key words: cactus, water storage, water channel, and survival technique

How can plants in deserts store water?

Desert plants have the ability to absorb water, hold it, and prepare to use it in times of drought. For instance, the succulent leaves and stems of cactus and many other desert plants store water.

Desert plants may also have additional water-storing adaptations, including folds or pleats that allow the plant to swell with additional water when it can. If the plant absorbs a lot of water, the pleats or folds may almost completely vanish; but, if drought sets in and the plant uses the water it has stored, the plant may shrink and the pleats or folds may once again be evident.

The water that desert plants have stored in their underground roots, tubers, and bulbs will keep them alive until the next moist time, despite the fact that many desert plants die to the ground during the hottest part of every year.

Why do plants have spines and hairs? Desert plants’ natural hairs and spines break the effects of the wind, hence lowering moisture loss. Additionally, they assist in creating tiny shadows that shade other desert plants from the light. Due of their shine, the hairs and spines can even be used to reflect sunlight away from plants. The last line of defense for plants against hungry animal predators is hairs and spines.

Why do plants use less water?

As part of the laboratory’s investigation into the crassulacean acid metabolism, or CAM, a water-efficient mode of photosynthesis, Kaitlin Palla, a graduate student at the University of Tennessee Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, studies agave plants in the greenhouse at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

5 December 2016 OAK RIDGE, Tennessee

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered the genetic and metabolic pathways that enable some plants to conserve water and flourish in semi-arid regions as part of an effort to produce drought-resistant food and bioenergy crops.

By evolving a particular style of photosynthesis known as crassulacean acid metabolism, or CAM, semi-arid plants like agave have adapted to live in locations with minimal rainfall. At night, when water is less likely to evaporate, CAM plants, unlike plants in wetter settings, absorb and store carbon dioxide through open pores in their leaves. The pores, also known as stomata, remain closed throughout the day as the plant uses sunlight to turn carbon dioxide into energy, limiting water loss.

In order to introduce water-saving features into bioenergy and food crops, ORNL scientists are researching the distinctive metabolic processes that enable CAM plants to conserve water. The findings of the group’s most recent study, which focuses on agave, are featured as the journal’s cover story in Nature Plants.

Researchers are now looking at the CAM photosynthetic process, which was first identified in the 1950s but has mostly remained a scientific mystery, as a potential means of sustaining food and bioenergy crop outputs in times of water scarcity and drought.

According to co-author Xiaohan Yang of ORNL, “Today’s demand on agricultural systems to provide food, feed, forage, fiber, and fuel call for more thorough research into understanding the intricacies of CAM plants. Our studies aim to accelerate the development of crops so that they can survive in more arid conditions as freshwater becomes scarcer as we reveal each layer of the CAM process.

The team employed ORNL’s mass spectrometry to compare the chemical characteristics of agave with a control plant, Arabidopsis, which employs a more typical photosynthetic process, in order to get a thorough understanding of the intricate CAM system.

Over the course of a 24-hour period, the scientists examined the genetic activity in each plant that indicates stomatal mobility. Their research showed that between agave and arabidopsis, there were substantial differences in the timing of daytime versus nocturnal stomatal activity. The study also identified the genetic and metabolic pathways that tell CAM plants when to open and shut their stomata. Transferring CAM processes to crops including rice, corn, poplar, and switchgrass will require an understanding of the timing of these signals.

The results of this study offer new insights into the complexity of CAM biodesign, featuring an integrative understanding of CAM at the molecular level, according to Gerald Tuskan, ORNL Corporate Fellow and coauthor. However, more research is needed to understand how this molecular timekeeping regulates CAM. Energy crops’ ability to be grown on marginal soils would be facilitated by the incorporation of CAM molecular machinery, which would also lessen rivalry with food crops.

The authors of the study, titled “Transcript, Protein and Metabolite Temporal Dynamics in the CAM Plant Agave,” included ORNL’s Paul Abraham, Hengfu Yin, Henrique Cestari De Paoli, Nancy Engle, Ryan Agh, David Weston, Stan Wullschleger, Timothy Tschaplinski, Daniel Jacobson, Robert Hettich, Gerald Tuskan, and Xiaohan Yang; Anne Borland of the University of Newcastle and

The research was supported by resources from the DOE’s Office of Science and made use of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and the Compute and Data Environment for Science (CADES) at ORNL, a fully integrated infrastructure that provides scalable computing, software support, and high-performance cloud storage services for researchers labwide (OLCF).

The Office of Science within DOE is responsible for managing ORNL. The Office of Science is tackling some of the most important issues of our day and is the largest single funder of fundamental research in the physical sciences in the United States. Please visit http://energy.gov/science/ for further details.

What causes plants to store water?

Water makes up 90% of all plants. For photosynthesis to occur, they need water. Photosynthesis slows down in plants when they do not receive enough water. Additionally, water prevents drooping of the stems and leaves of plants.

Pond plants’ leaves were dispersed across the water’s surface. They can obtain enough of water for the roots underneath.

What three adaptations do cacti have?

A cactus, unlike other plants, has unique adaptations in its roots, leaves, and stems that allow it to survive in hot, dry settings. Here is a summary of these adaptations:


A cactus does not have any parts that resemble leaves, if you could look at one closely. Instead, the leaves are transformed into spines, which protrude from the plant’s tiny bumps known as areoles. Consequently, the stems carry out the process of photosynthesis rather than the leaves. Additionally, the stem of a cacti is easily exposed to sunlight because they are primarily found in arid environments.

Additionally, because excessive evaporation is prevented by the spines because water is scarce in a desert. The spines also trap air, limiting airflow and obstructing evaporation. Collecting dew from the early-morning fog is another crucial job that the spines do. The gathered dew turned into liquid water and ran down to the earth below. The plant then takes this water up. Herbivores in the desert may also be enticed to consume the delicious cactus flesh. These creatures are prevented from doing so by the spines.


To swiftly absorb precipitation, cacti have shallow, broad, fibrous roots that are near to the surface. Although the desert is a dry environment, it does occasionally rain there. These plants typically have broad, shallow roots that may absorb a lot of groundwater. In addition, throughout the course of two hours during rainsoften growing, cactus roots also exhibit brief growth spurts. These fictitious roots disappear after it rains. When it rains, root hairs quickly expand to enhance the absorption surface area before dying when the ground dries out. In addition to their fibrous roots, some cacti also have a long, deep taproot that is several times longer than the plant’s height above the ground. Water that is present underground is absorbed by taproots.

Deep-layer Stomata

Stomata in cacti are located deep into the tissue as opposed to the surface. Furthermore, a photosynthetic adaptation known as Crassulacean acid metabolism causes the stomata to open at night (CAM). This drastically lowers water loss, which is crucial in a dry environment, together with the deep-layer stomata.

Thick and Expandable Stem

Cactus stems are tender. Because their stems are thicker than those of other plants, cacti may store water in their stems, specifically in collapsible water-storage cells. To hold additional water, the stems are also capable of significant expansion. They carry out photosynthesis and are green.

Short Growing Season

Continuous growth needs a lot of water, and in places like deserts, water is extremely rare. Because of this, cacti have a shorter growing season than other plants. In actuality, plants only develop for one season before ceasing growth and starting again the next year. Cacti also survive longer than other plants, although they grow considerably more slowly.

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How does a cactus store water?

Desert covers most of the Baja California peninsula. Plants have learned how to make the most of every drop of water that is available in this arid climate. It is simple to store water, as cactus does. However, in this dry land, even an adaptation like delayed development helps to conserve energy.

Desert plants have developed numerous water-saving strategies over time. It is commonly known that cacti can hold water. Water loss is minimized thanks to a waxy covering on the stem and pads. Spines, which are hypothesized to aid in shading the plant by casting shadows, and plant orientation to light exposure are other adaptations.

The Field Guide includes the following cactus-specific pages: Barrel Cactus, Cardn, Cholla, and Prickly-pear