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Mojave Desert CactusCacti / Desert Succulents
Cactus are any plant of the family Cactaceae, a large group of succulents found almost entirely in the Western Hemisphere. They are not confined to desert areas although most certainly identified with them.
A cactus plant is usually conspicuous with a fleshy green stems or paddles performing functions as leaves which are commonly absent. Spines are typical, although they may be very small. Cactus flowers are notably delicate in appearance although typically large and showy; the colors vary and can be yellow, white, or shades of red and purple. Many species are pollinated by bats. Cactus fruits are usually edible.
Hot temperatures pose special problems for cacti. Most leafy plants cool themselves during the day by opening their pores. The movement of water from stem to leaf to air keeps leaf temperatures from rising too high. Because their pores open only at night, cacti cannot take advantage of such transpirational cooling. They adapt to desert heat by internal mechanisms. Teddybear cholla, for instance, can withstand an air temperature of 138 degrees F. Most other plants would literally cook at this temperature, but teddybear cholla often rises 59 degrees F or more above the air temperature!
Mojave mound cactus
California barrel cactus
Assorted Cactus Photos
A selection from:
Sun, Sand and Solitude
By Randall Henderson
Here’s a solution for those who are appalled at the thought of mastering all those tongue-twisting names the scientists have given the various species of cactus which grow on the desert. George Wharton James offers an answer in his book Wonders of the Colorado Desert. James said he once asked an old desert prospector how many varieties of cacti he was familiar with.
“By gosh,” said the prospector. “You city fellers have no idea how many kinds we got. I know every one of ‘em. There’s the “Full of Stickers, All Stickers, Never Fail Stickers, Stick Everybody, Stick and Stay In, Sharp Stickers, Extra Sharp Stickers, Big Stickers, Little Stickers, Stick While You Sleep, Stick While You Wait, Stick ’Em Alive, Stick ’Em Dead, Stick Unexpectedly, Stick anyway, Stick In And Never Come Out, Stick Through Leather, Stick Through Anything, Stick & Fester, Barbed Fishhook Cactus, Rattlesnake Fangs Cactus, Impartial Cactus, Democratic Cactus, The Deep Sticker, and a few others.”