Have you ever wondered in what locations and regions of the world cacti grow naturally? You'll be amazed to know that cacti grow more than just in deserts!
July 04, 2021
Where in the World Do Cacti Grow?
When you think of cacti growing outdoors, what is the first image that comes to your mind? Perhaps that of a desert would be the best fit.
And while it’s true that most cacti species prefer hot and arid climates, you’ll be surprised to know that many cacti are adaptable. In fact, they adjust themselves to their environment and can be found all over the world!
According to NASA, there are seven biomes in the world. The Cactus biome is most specifically of the desert. Different cacti species may also be found growing in tropical rainforest biomes.
What are biomes?
Biomes are geographical regions, characterized according to the land and weather conditions.
All cacti have a similar requirement, which is proper drainage. However, due to the climatic conditions of different biomes, the different cacti have adapted to their environment to make their food and nutrients differently.
According to NASA, there are seven biomes in the world:
Tundra: It is a flat region where the growing seasons are so short that trees or plants are unable to grow. It also remains cold due to low temperatures, with the soil partially frozen.
Shrubland: A shrubland is usually dominated by tiny plants, that grow no more than 5 meters tall. These include herbs and other plants with dominant wooden barks and parts.
Rainforest: As its name suggests, it is a forest type with heavy rainfall. It is the earth’s oldest type of geographical region.
Grassland: It is an open area of land, which is significantly layered with grass. However, you could find some plant species as well, such as herbs, legumes, and clovers.
Desert: Any barren region void of proper precipitation, making it unsustainable for plants that require regular water or animals that require frequent food.
Temperate deciduous forest:A type of forest in which seasonal changes are most noticeable. You could see the leaves of a temperate deciduous forest changing colors during the Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.
Coniferous forest: These forests have assorted wildlife. They are characterized by summers that are warm and cooler winters.
What biomes are cacti species found in?
So where in the world do cacti live?
It’s vital to remember though that cacti have around 1700 species and they are all spread in different regions across the globe! From the deserted regions of Arizona to Africa and the Mediterranean, the cacti are spread in various locations around the world.
Cacti growing in grassland biomes
Apart from deserts, cacti can pretty much grow in grasslands as well!
Cacti belonging to grassland biomes include the Opuntia (prickly pear) species.
You can easily find the prickly pear cactus in the grassland biome. This is because these cacti usually don’t grow as tall as desert cacti. Hence, the grassland environment and features suit them perfectly.
Cacti growing in rainforest biomes
Do you think cacti can only grow in deserts? Not necessarily!
Cacti belonging to rainforest biomes grow in forests having an elevation between 1000 to 2000 meters. These cacti species can grow on rocks and even on trees.
You’ll be surprised to know that there are ‘jungle cacti’ too - the ones growing in rainforests! And what’s even more surprising is that there are no spines on rainforest cacti!
Since there is not much sunlight in rainforests, these cacti don’t need many spines to shield themselves. The weather is neither scorching nor is it too dry.
What cacti species grow in the rainforest habitat?
Pereskiopsis species: This is a very peculiar cacti species. They have leaves instead of spines, so you may not recognize them as cacti at first glance. A rainforest habitat is perfect for this cactus species, as it has leaves that are flexible enough to tolerate extra water and regular soil mix.
Hylocereus species: These are also the cacti that produce delicious dragon fruit, also known as pitaya.
Thanksgiving cacti: These cacti have claw-shaped leaves with pointy edges.
Christmas cacti: The leaves of a Christmas cactus look like teardrops.
Easter cacti: The Easter cactus has rounded edges, that are usually curved towards the inner center of the leaf.
Did you know?
The ‘Holiday Cacti’ Family
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter cacti are together known as the ‘Holiday Cacti’. Although the three cacti are characterized into one family, the only way to distinguish them is by the shape of their leaves.
Map of Jungle/Rainforest Cacti
Northern South America
The behaviors and habits of rainforest cacti
Rainforest cacti either grow on rocks or even trees.
Since sunlight cannot go through tropical rainforests, these cacti generate nutrients from the air only, assorted debris or dead leaves.
Cacti growing on trees can reach out for the sunlight and get their nutrients from it.
Do rainforest cacti have different needs?
Yes! Due to their rainforest habitat, they have fewer spines. Moreover, they are more flexible with water and soil needs, as they have grown according to the moist environment.
Cacti growing in the desert biome
The first cacti habitat that strikes our minds is the desert!
Cacti growing in desert regions are accustomed to the hot and dry climate. These cacti species have more spines and different behavioral traits compared to rainforest cacti.
What cacti species grow in the desert habitat?
Saguaro cactus: The tall cacti species in the Arizona desert may not be new to many cacti enthusiasts. These are the ones you notice straight away, even while watching Hollywood films with desert cowboys and rowdies hanging around. Surprisingly, the Saguaro cacti are only grown in the Sonoran Desert.
Prickly Pear cactus: Known for its bubble-gum taste like fruit, the prickly pear cactus is very common in the desert regions.
Barrel cactus: The barrel cactus is well-rounded in shape. Most of its surface area is covered with spines. These cacti can be found in large quantities in the Mojave desert of southern California.
Cholla cactus: The cholla cactus comprises around 20 species, under the category of opuntia cacti. You can find cholla cacti growing in large quantities in Northern America.
**Did you know?**
**The desert has cacti-resembling plants**
Apart from cacti, a desert has many types of plants. Some of them may even resemble cacti, such as the Agave.
Map of desert cacti
Arizona desert, United States
Mojave Desert, Southern California, United States
The behaviors and habits of desert cacti
Desert cacti have roots on the surface. This root growth makes it easier for them to take in as much water as possible whenever it rains.
These cacti can store in water for around 90% of the entire cactus size.
The stems of these cacti are very waxy, which makes it harder for the water to evaporate. Hence, they store water for future use very quickly.
Can Cacti grow in Mountainous Regions?
If the mountains are at a low altitude, there are chances you may find many cacti there too!
Low altitude mountainous regions have the Copiapoa species.
What cacti species grow in the mountains?
Copiapoa: This cactus species also produce beautiful flowers. Although they thrive well in hot and arid climates, they can grow beside mountainous regions too.
Map of mountainous cacti
The Andes mountain range: Covers Chile, Colombia
The Atacama desert: Northern Chile
Cacti growing in different biomes can be distinguished by their features. For instance, desert-growing cacti have more spines to shield themselves from the scorching sun and make sufficient use of the water. On the other hand, tropical rainforest cacti have flexibility in growth. Some cacti species, especially Copiapoa can grow in low-altitude mountainous regions.