Thanks to our friend Janet in Tucson, Arizona who shared many of the flowering cactus plants from her yard!
Saguaro cacti can grow to be very old. The oldest ones have branches where the youngest ones do not yet have branches.
Cactus in the snow. A rare site!
Cactus in the snow. A rare site!
When Cacti grow in the desert, they grow widely scattered from one another, because they have extensive roots, that hold lots of water and minerals, and don’t want them intertwined with other cactus roots. The thick stem of a cactus helps the plant store large amounts of water.
The structure of a cactus helps it survive in dry climates. Their thick fleshy stems hold water, and it’s waxy skin prevents evaporation. Cacti have extensive roots that help hold lots of water and minerals that eventually move up the stem to help the cactus grow. There are many types of Cacti. There are some that are like a bare tree with a thick trunk and upturned branches, like the Saguaro Cactus. Some cacti look like pincushions, with spine clusters all over them, like the Prickly Pear Cactus. There are many more cacti though. For example there are, Saguaro Cactus, Beavertail Cactus, Prickly Pear Cactus, Organ Pipe Cactus, Ocotillo Cactus, Welwitschia Cactus, and Pincushion Cactus. On the cactus they have, flowers, hairline spines, and some spine clusters.
Some of the desert animals live inside the cactus! They make holes within the cactus to hide and live in, or find holes previously made by past animals that have lived there. These animals include but are not limited to, owls, birds, bats, road runners, and other small desert animals.
A plant process that the cactus does is when the male and female parts of the cactus reproduce. The pollen from the male part of the plant will fertilize the egg cell in the female part of the plant. This process produces fruits, and the fruits produce seeds. Although only a few of the many seeds will survive, a cactus will most likely grow from those seeds and make a brand new cactus.
A plant process that the cactus does is photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is when the chloroplasts on a plant, in this case the chloroplasts are in the stem, take in sunlight and carbon dioxide. During this process the plant make glucose, or sugars, that the plant can use for food. Chloroplasts may be in the cells of fruits, stems or in the leaves. In a cactus it takes place in the stem.
All of the reproduction happens within the Flower of the cactus, where the seeds are. They have male and female parts within the Flower. The male part produces pollen. The pollen then fertilizes an egg cell in the female part of the cactus. A fruit will develop, but only one or two seeds out of the whole fruit will survive to become a new plant. Some cacti reproduce without seeds or flowers as well.
The beavertail cactus stores water in its swollen stem. Beavertail Cacti also have small hair-like spines that protect it. Their roots also have smaller, hair like roots that absorb water from the ground.
Some cactus have a type of root called taproots, that can reach very far underground to reach underground water sources. Sometimes the roots of a cactus are longer than the plant is tall! That means if the Saguaro grew to its fullest potential, nearly 50 feet tall, its roots would dig into the ground more than 50 feet below the surface! That’s really far!
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