Cactus Science Project

No matter where you live, you can get your hands on a cactus. But don’t!

Do you know why?

You probably will if you’ve ever handled a cactus.

Cacti are any member of the succulent plant family Cactaceae, native to the Americas. They are often used as ornamental plants, but some are also crop plants.

Cacti are members of the Kingdom Plantae, of the division Magnoliophyta, of the class Magnoliopsida, of the order Caryophyllales, of the family Cactaceae. This kind of biological classification or scientific classification in biology, is a method by which biologists group and categorize species of organisms. It’s kind of like the postal system whereby the mailman can find your address by first locating your continent, then your country, state, city, zip code, street, and then house or apartment.

The cactus family has definite characteristics. They include features which make them able to live in dry conditions. If you want to find cacti in the wild, you’ll most likely find them in the desert. Sometimes they flower. One of them has huge flowers. More particular to the cactus family however are its spikes. These can be tiny things that you can hardly see, or they can be long hard things that you could pull out of your skin quite easily. But it would still hurt to do so.

Some people used these handy and pretty plants for ornaments. Some people use them for fences. A few people plant cacti beneath their windows so that no one can climb into the windows above them.

Cacti don’t have leaves like other plants. Their stems aren’t normally woody, either. Instead, a cacti’s stem expands into a bathtub like structure, depending on the size and shape of the original plant, so that it can hoard water. This is called having a succulent structure. On the outside are the spine and needles that you do not, repeat, de not want to touch. If you do, you’ll remember the rule for the rest of your life. All it takes is one little touch because these prickers are designed to come off with the lightest touch. They are protecting the water inside. Water is very, very precious in the desert.

Many uninformed people wander in the desert looking for a special kind of cacti called Lophophora williamsii or Peyote. Several different Indian tribes use this cactus as part of their spirit quest. Some say that it was Quanah Parker (about 1845-1911), chief of the Comanche, Kwahadi division, who spearheaded the development and diffusion of the peyote religion in Indian Territory. He loved the medicinal powers of the peyote cactus. Some of the stories of the power of deserts in spiritual training can be traced to this cactus.

Many cactus flowers bloom at night, since they are pollinated by bats and moths. The fruit of some, such as the prickly pear, can be eaten. If your local green grocer carries it, buy one, shred it and make a spicy salad out of it.