It’s easy to identify a Cactus plant, even if you’ve never physically seen one. These plants are some of the most easily identifiable ones you’ll have around.
They are often found in deserts which is why if you have ever seen a cartoon in a desert setting, you’ll find an artist’s interpretation of a cactus.
Cactus plants are extremely hardy, which is why they can survive in arid and unforgiving conditions like the desert.
To survive in the desert, the Cactus plant has developed many adaptations which allow for it to survive.
These adaptations ensure that the cactus has the best chance at not only survival but also growth. Other plants have adaptations similar to the Cactus plant.
In the article below, we’ll look into the adaptations which the cactus plant has and what other plants these adaptations are available in.
Table of Contents
What Is a Cactus Plant?
A cactus plant is a plant from the family of Cactaceae. There are many types of Cacti in this family.
These can come with different leaves, stems, and even flowers, depending on the type of cactus plants they are.
You will find that almost all cactus plants are succulents. This means that they have thickened, fleshy parts which are adapted to storing water.
What Are Some of the Adaptations a Cactus Plant has?
We know now that Cactus plants can survive in the desert because it has adapted accordingly. Some of the adaptations which the Cactus plant are the following:
Cactus plants are Succulents
Succulence is the ability by which cactus plants can accumulate water. The reason that the cactus plant has this adaptation is that, in general, cactus plants grow in deserts.
In deserts, there is a shortage of water. Rain occurs at spaced-out intervals and not for a very long time.
This kind of climate means that in order to survive, the cactus plant or other plants in the desert need to be able to store huge amounts of water in their stems.
They tend to store huge amounts of water in their stems which they can resort to when they don’t have enough water around.
Succulence is a thickening of stems and an increase in surface area so that they can store a greater amount of water.
This adaptation only occurs in areas where the rainfall is scarce and irregular but still present.
Cactus plants are some of the best examples of fluid retention. There are plants like the Carnegia Gigantea, which are huge.
They are known to weigh up to a tonne and can weigh up to ten tonnes after a huge storm. They can store a massive amount of water. They thus can withstand a long time without water.
The stems occur as spheres or columns
Most cactus plants occur as spheres or columns, which means they have a massive amount of volume but not as much surface area exposed to air.
They also have spines that reduce the surface area through which plants can lose their water. This allows Cactus plants to have a large reservoir of water that they can access in a period of drought.
Most Cactus Plants and succulents also occur as branches of each other. These folds also help them lose less surface area. These branches and folds also allow people to take up less surface area.
Transformation of Leaves
One of the most obvious adaptations of leaves in Cactus plants is that they’re not present. Instead, there is a conversion of leaves into spines to conserve water.
This conversion occurs in almost all types of cactus plants. The benefit of this conversion of leaves into spines is that it reduces evaporation due to less amount of surface area.
Due to this, cactus plants can survive the winter. These spines also protect the Cactus plant from attack by herbivores. Thus they also act as protectors so the Cactus plants can grow undisturbed.
Since herbivores and other animals can’t take advantage of the leaves, they opt for the flower or the fruit. This method allows for the seeds of the cactus to be dispersed so they can evolve and grow.
Some cactus plants also adapt to the harsh conditions of a desert by growing white hair or pubescence on their bodies.
This appearance is due to the cactus wanting to reflect the sun’s rays, as the more light the sun reflected, the less water it would lose.
The plants would also become less prone to dehydration and burning due to the direct presence of sunlight.
This kind of adaptation occurs in Cactus plants where there is a strong contrast between day and night temperatures.
Adaptations in the roots
Additionally, the root network of Cactus plants plays a severely significant role in its survival. They have a distinct root system compared to other plants. Most plants have an intricate and deep root system.
However, in Cactus plants, the roots are generally shallow. This adaptation allows them to soak in water when it’s near the surface.
However, when the water soaks into the ground, it’s no longer accessible to these plants. That being said, the roots in a Cactus plant tend to grow longer than that of other plants.
So they have a rood system that covers more area and is broad.
They Have an Alternate Mechanism for Metabolism
Cactus plants have a particular photosynthetic process that succulent plants carry out. This process lets them handle exceptionally dry environments.
Most plants need to open up their stomata so they can absorb carbon dioxide. Cactus plants tend to do this, but they only do this at night.
Opening up stomata at night means that they’re less likely to lose water as the sun is not present. But they can’t conduct photosynthesis at night without the presence of sunlight.
Instead, they’ll store the Carbon dioxide during the night in the form of malic acid until the next morning.
Once the cactus receives its first ray of sunlight, it will then utilize this malic acid and convert it to Carbon dioxide so that the plant can conduct photosynthesis instead and create sugar for its growth.
The process by which the Cactus Plant does this is called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism.
What Plants Have the Same Adaptations as a Cactus Plant?
Many plants have adaptations similar to the Cactus plant. However, to simplify it for you, we will leave you with a term that classifies all of these plants.
Xerophytes are plants like Aloe Vera and other succulents which can survive, much like Cactus plants.
Cactus plants are also Xerophytes. This fact means that they’re able to survive in arid and harsh conditions so they can grow in the future.
Xerophytes can live in these harsh environments because they have adaptations similar to the ones that we have mentioned above. Xerophytes are plant species that have developed to live and survive in dry regions.
Common Xerophytes are all the succulents that you may find available in your local shop. Almost all of these xerophytes have the following adaptations:
- Wide, round stems and tubers
- Extended, intricate roots
- Spines instead of leaves
- Decreased surface area
These adaptations make it easier for plants to survive in harsh conditions like the desert or in places with a lack of water. We have mentioned some common examples of xerophytes below:
- Aloe Vera
- Cissus tuberose
- chalk lettuce/chalk liveforever/chalk Dudleya (Dudleya Pulverulenta)
- Elephant’s foot (Adenia Glauca)
- Barbary fig (Opuntia Ficus-indica)
- Prickly pear (Opuntia)
- Red pencil tree (Euphorbia Tirucalli)
- Raphionacme (Raphionacme Flanaganii)
- Barrel cactus (Echinocactus Grusonii)
- Red Monadenium (Monadenium Rubellum)
- Poinsettia (Euphorbia Pulcherrima)
- Mexican boulder plant (Calibanus Hookerii)
Where Can You Find Xerophytes?
Xerophytes tend to thrive in areas with less water and a great amount of aridness. You can find these plants in most deserts or places where the water table is low.
The next time you’re in a dry environment, look around and notice what plants manage to survive. These are probably Xerophytes. Cactus plants can survive in the desert because they’re xerophytes.
Many plants share similar adaptations to that of the cactus plant. As a collective, these plants are called Xerophytes.
Xerophytes have evolved over a long period to become plants that can withstand the harsh weather conditions of desert and arid zones in the world.
You’ll find that Xerophytes is not a popular term that many people know. However, xerophytes occur all around us. Most succulents are xerophytes.
They have all the adaptations that a cactus plant has. They have spines to limit water loss.
They are bulbous and occur in the form of tubers, and they have wide and intricate root networks to absorb as much water as possible.
The existence of these adaptations makes it possible for these xerophytes to survive. The Cactus isn’t the only plant that can survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of a desert.
The adaptations and hardiness of these plants allow them to be such a fixture in homes today.