Cactus & Succulent Amazing Facts
for Learning, or Just Plain FUN !

     All cacti are succulents,
     but not all succulents are cacti!

This is because cacti develop their spines from a very special organ that no other plant has - it's called an areole. Succulents with spines grow them in a completely different manner.

HenriettaThe succulent Sempervivum tectorum is also called House Leek. In the olden times, the roofs of houses were often covered with turf or sod. A turf roof would be planted with house leek to keep evil spirits away, these days a house leek is often planted near the front and back door of a home to do the same job. It was also said you would never lose your home if house leek guarded it, and house leek is almost impossible to transplant, once settled. - Aren't you glad you don't have to go outside and "water your roof"!

The young tender paddles of the Opuntia cactus are edible and eaten throughout Mexico in a variety of ways. The fruits of this plant are also edible and sometimes called Cactus Apples. Their flesh is dark red and very sweet and can be eaten just as it is - it also makes a terrific ruby colored jelly! Hip Hop

The same Opuntias were taken to Australia many years ago and planted as a food source for cattle. Though it sounded like a good idea, it became an ecological nightmare. The cactus liked it's new home so well that it proceeded to take over the outback and it's native plants. The Aussies have been tearing it out and burning it down for over 30 years now and they still can't get rid of it - Cracky Mate!

Plants with windows? There are a number of succulents, Haworthias, Baby Toes, Peperomia, and Lithops to name a few that actually have clear windows on their leaf tips. This is because they come from extremely harsh climates where they need to be able to collect as much light as possible in the wintertime to survive. This allows all available light to penetrate deep inside the body of the plant.

1 Hippopotamus, 2 or more Hippopotami
1 Octopus, 2 or more Octopi
1 Cactus, 2 or more Cacti

Frank N. SpineSpines on cacti are not only for protection from predators but also protection from the sun. Even though the spines may be thin, as the sun moves all day long each spine is always shading a different part of the plant. This amounts to fairly even shading over the course of the day. Succulents, on the other hand, usually rely on spines and thorns for defense against critters, but will use things like dense wooly or fuzzy coatings on their stems and leaves for sun protection; Kalanchoes are famous for this. Teddy Bear

Botanical names are the only way to truly identify a plant, but common names can be entertaining:

Beaver Tail - Opuntia basilaris
Devil's Tongue - Ferocactus latispinus
Mule Crippler - Echinocactus horizonthalonius
Golden Torch - Trichocereus spachianus
Mother in Law's Tongue - Gasteria Family
Mother and 10,000 Babies - Several Kalanchoe species
Pregnant Onion - Ornithogalum longibracteatum

Some years back, a hunter was shooting quail in the deserts of Arizona, home of the Giant Saguaro cactus, which is protected by law in the wild. The hunter decided to have some target practice and took several shots at one of the giant cacti with his shotgun. When he was done, he turned to leave and the cactus fell directly on top of him - he died. Mother Nature does get even!

AgaveThe Agave is one of the most versatile succulents. In ancient times in the Americas it's thorns were used for needles, the fibers for thread or woven into fabric or ropes, and the flesh baked and eaten or turned into a beverage - we know that one today as Tequila! Also the large Maguey worms that bore into these plants (the larvae of the Giant Skipper Butterfly) are still very much enjoyed today deep fried and served straight up with a squirt of lime juice, or as a filling for tacos!

Cacti are native only to the Americas from as far north as northern Canada all the way south to the tip of Patagonia, South America's very southernmost point. If you see cacti in any other part of the world, somebody brought it there.

JackSucculents on the other hand have always been found on every continent of the planet. Some even took a course of parallel evolution. In Africa for example, Euphorbias (though succulents) fill a similar place in nature as cacti in the Americas. Euphorbias however are definitely NOT EDIBLE!


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