Cactus, commonly known as the ‘Desert plant’ is originally from America. It is mostly used as decorative and fencing plant. Cacti are popular because of its adaptation for dry places. They do not need much water to grow and hence doesn’t require regular caring. This is the reason they are used in fencing and the other reason is their spiny stem. Most of the Cactus varieties do not have leaves, they are modified into spines.
Fact 1: Cacti are the most popular indoor plants since most of them do not need much sunlight and water, it is easier to care for them.
Fact 2: Adaptation of this plant to hot and dry weather is what makes this plant unique from other plants. The stem, root and leaves all contribute in their own way in preserving water. The little rain water received is collected through roots and stored in the stem. The leaves are converted to spines, so that water evaporation from this part is reduced to minimum.
Fact 3: We apply petroleum jelly on lips and other delicate skin parts to preserve moisture. Applying this creates a water resistant layer and hence reduces loss of water through that part of the skin. Same trick is used by cacti as well. It has a waxy substance coated throughout its stem to decrease the amount of water evaporation during transpiration.
Fact 4: Cactus stem has served as water reservoirs since ages for those who have to travel in desserts. It has saved many lives providing water content for many dehydrated animals and humans.
Fact 5: Just like any other plants, cacti are also used as food for animal as well as humans. Most of them are grown as fodder for animals. Some of them are used for making most healthy and tasty dishes, especially in Mexico. There are many Mexican salads, desserts and other dishes made of cacti.
Fact 6: Cacti have shallow roots. They do not go deep into the soil, instead spread widely around the plant just beneath the soil. This is to collect as much as rain water whenever it rains. Since it hardly rains in dessert which is the most common habitat for the cacti, they try to make the most of the rain water. As soon as the rain stops, the soil around the cactus roots gets drier than its root. This imparts a risk of losing water to surrounding soil through the roots. Hence, as soon as the rain stops, they start detaching their roots. When they detach the roots, the roots dry up and shrink creating an empty space between the cacti and the soil. Hence, preventing loosing water to the soil.
Fact 7: Cactus work in the night for collecting the carbon dioxide. Opening the stomata during the day for absorbing the gas like other plants may cause lot of water loss. Hence, they open in the night collect the carbon dioxide in them. Later in the day they use this carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.
Fact 8: The root of some cacti like Peyotl, a Mexican cactus has hallucinogenic properties. They were chewed by Aztecs for this property. These were also used as anaesthesia for some patients in case they had to undergo operation.
Fact 9: The cactus spines not just protect them from animal and birds coming to feed on them but also they direct the rain water towards the stem.
Fact 10: Birds like Gila Woodpecker and Glided Flicker nests in the Saguaro Cactus. They create a vent in the stem and stay there. The temperature inside this nest will be much cooler than the outside atmosphere due to the water content in the cactus stem.