Cacti are spiny succulent plants with cylindrical or spherical shapes.
These plants can be found in several parts of the world such as the Americas, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia.
According to experts, cactus plants have existed since the Triassic period between 230 and 201 million years ago!
There are over 2,400 different species of cactus plants available in the market today with about 800 species of cactus native to the Americas alone.
If you or someone in your family suffers from allergies, it can be difficult to decide what type of plants you should keep around the house.
Not only do you have to worry about pollen, but also if pet dander and dust from certain plants will trigger an allergic reaction, even if you can’t see them.
One such plant that people with allergies should probably avoid at all costs is the cactus plant.
Unfortunately, these prickly plants are commonly found in homes because of their long-lasting flowers and attractive looks.
People that live in areas with hot and dry climates typically have larger quantities of cactus plants in their homes and yards than people living in other parts of the country.
And while these desert plants may look interesting and attractive, they can cause some trouble if you happen to be allergic to them, or their thorns or spines prick your skin.
In this article, we will help you learn more about the allergies caused by a cactus and how to manage them better.
We also study the inherent structure of the plant, where it comes from, and some of the tips to take care of it.
What Is a Cactus Plant?
Cacti, also known as succulents, are plant species that originated in the Americas and now grow in a variety of regions.
These plants are characterized by their fleshy stems or branches for storing water. The most common types of cacti include prickly pear, barrel cactus, and saguaro.
The prickly pear has long spines (called glochids) which can cause rashes and scratches on the skin.
The barrel cactus is called a barrel because it is wider than it is tall. The saguaro is typically taller than 3 meters with a trunk diameter of 1 meter at breast height.
It is a common misconception that cacti plants are the same as succulents. However, this is not the case.
Succulents are usually soft and fleshy, while cacti are prickly and hard. The two types of plants have many similarities, but also have some major differences.
For example, both succulents and cacti store water in their leaves but they do so through different processes. A cactus plant’s leaves absorb moisture from rain and dew.
A succulent leaf acts like a sponge to absorb water from its environment by trapping it between cells.
Types of Cacti
Cacti come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with prickly spines that protect their fleshy insides.
The most popular types are the barrel cactus, hedgehog cactus, prickly pear cacti, and saguaro cacti.
Though their names may sound intimidating, these plants are relatively easy to care for!
They only need moderate watering once or twice per week (depending on the climate), direct sunlight, and occasional fertilization.
Can Cacti Cause Allergies?
If you have any allergies to pollen or dust mites, it is possible that you will also be allergic to contact with cactus spines.
The most common allergic reaction to a cactus is contact dermatitis, which can appear as itchy red patches on your skin.
This happens because of prickly barbs on cacti called glochids.
If you’re prone to allergies or have sensitive skin, it may be best for you to keep your distance from cacti until you know that they don’t affect you.
Cacti can cause allergies if you have allergies from dust mites or pollen.
It is important to know which type of cactus plant you are planting because they do not all provide the same level of protection.
It might be best to buy your cactus at a garden center so you can learn more about the benefits and drawbacks before purchasing them yourself.
When buying a cactus, you should make sure it does not have any scratches, holes, or other imperfections because those are the places where pests like spider mites and mealy bugs could enter.
Properly maintained cacti require very little effort on behalf of the owner; some people enjoy using them as houseplants!
It’s important to know how much water your particular cactus needs based on its environment and what type it is.
Prickly pears, for example, require an ample amount of water since they originate from the desert!
Some people find that taking care of a cactus becomes an enjoyable hobby rather than an arduous task.
Are there health risks with cacti and succulents?
Like any other plant, if cacti and succulents have pollen on their stems or leaves, they can cause reactions in people who are allergic to them.
When a person has an allergy, her immune system sees a specific plant as a threat.
Antibodies are produced in reaction to help protect your body from that threat by producing symptoms like hay fever, runny nose, and watery eyes.
If you suspect that you might be having an adverse reaction to one of these plants, wash the affected area immediately and call for emergency medical attention.
There are things you can do to avoid contact with these allergens, however.
Avoid touching the plant or flowers, wear long sleeves when gardening around cacti or succulents and keep them away from children who might not understand the risks involved with touching them.
These precautions will help you enjoy these plants without running into any unnecessary difficulties.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Cactus Plant
Cacti are members of the succulent family and as such, they store water in their stems.
As they age, they may need to be watered more often. If the cactus is from a high-elevation desert, it will require less water than one from a low-elevation desert.
For best results, use soaker hoses or drip irrigation instead of overhead sprinklers to avoid wetting the leaves of your cactus plant and causing rot.
When you water your cactus plant, take care not to over-saturate its soil. An excess amount of water will cause the roots to suffocate, which can lead to death.
To help keep dirt off your hands when planting a new cactus, you can wear disposable gloves. The sap on the cactus is usually harmless but it might irritate sensitive skin.
If you want to remove old spines from your cactus, don’t worry about cutting them out. Just use scissors to gently pull them away from the body of the plant.
You’ll want to trim any dead or dried spines away with pruning shears for two reasons: firstly, because they’re unattractive; secondly because they might attract pests that could harm your other plants if left unchecked.
Make sure you give your cactus plenty of sunlight during the day.
Most types should receive at least six hours of sun each day, though some species need up to 12 hours per day.
However, make sure that there’s plenty of shade near where the cactus plant resides, so it doesn’t get burned by direct exposure to sunlight all day long.
If you ever find aphids around your cactus plant, get rid of them right away!
Aphids suck juices from plants and secrete honeydew (a sweet liquid), creating an ideal environment for mold growth.
They also leave behind a sticky residue called ‘honeydew’ which attracts ants. Ants protect aphids because they feed on the honeydew secreted by these insects.
If your cactus has yellowing leaves, this is likely due to overwatering rather than a lack of watering.
It’s important to keep an eye on water levels during hot weather as well since heat encourages the plant to retain water.
Be careful not to pour cold water on hot cactus plants because doing so can shock them.
If you notice insects living on your cactus plant, try introducing ladybugs into the area. These natural predators will eat the pests without damaging your plant.
Aphids are attracted to the sugar found in flowers or fruits.
Prevent them from feeding by placing a solution of soap and water near these foods before covering them up again.
Monitor the plant for a few days to see whether the insects have been eliminated.
If you have chickens, you can kill the aphids with a chicken egg mixed with water.
If you decide to repot your cactus, do so during the spring months. This is when the plant produces new shoots and gets ready to grow again.
Once again, proper maintenance reduces pests; therefore, one less thing you’ll need to worry about.
Cactus can be allergic, but you can minimize the problems with proper care tips and methods.