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by Walter Feller
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Desert Plants

Mojave Desert Cactus

Cacti / 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!

Coryphantha alversonii (cushion foxtail cactus)

Cylindropuntia bigelovii (teddybear cholla)

Cylindropuntia echinocarpa (silver cholla)

Cylindropuntia ramosissima (pencil cholla)

Echinocactus polycephalus (cottontop cactus)

Echinocereus engelmannii (hedgehog cactus)

Echinocereus mojavensis (Mojave mound cactus)

Ferocactus cylindraceus (California barrel cactus)

Grusonia parishii (matted cholla)

Mammillaria tetrancistra (common fishhook cactus)

Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris (beavertail pricklypear)

Opuntia chlorotica (dollarjoint pricklypear)

Opuntia phaeacantha (tulip pricklypear)

Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea (grizzlybear pricklypear)

also see:

Assorted Cactus Photos

Photo of cottontop cactus in the Mojave Desert
Cottontop cactus
new & updated - ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - map/sat - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - 360 photos - glossary - comments

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