Cactus Flowers – A Guide to Life in the Desert

Cactus Flowers – The Harsh Reality of Desert Living

Cactus flowers are one of the planet’s greatest examples of life and survival in harsh environments. A cactus is a species of plant that grows in the desert, defying what could be considered the most hazardous environments to life in the entire world. Endless drought, scorching sun and blowing sand all contribute to an environment that is unforgiving to anything foolish enough to try to challenge it.

And yet, challenge these cactus flowers do. They not only challenge the desert, but they thrive within it. Millennia of evolution have created plants whose sole design characteristic is to store water. You could think of many cactus flowers as being living water tanks, which soak up and store every drop they can find to allow them to live.

Not only are they able to survive, but they also have mechanisms that defy other creatures of the waste. Prickly spines and thorns adorn most species, making it a poor idea indeed to select one as a meal. Much like the cactus flowers themselves, some species of animals have adapted to overcome these defenses, but to many it is a barrier that cannot be crossed.

Cactus Flowers – Common Species

When you consider cactus flowers, there are usually several species that come to mind. We’ve listed here some interesting and defining qualities of these species so that you can learn more about them.

· Prickly Pear – These cactus flowers have flat, fleshy pad-like arms that resemble large leaves. The pads are actually modified branches or stems that serve several functions — water storage, photosynthesis and flower production. The flowers of this plant are usually yellow, red or purple.

The red, fleshy fruit of the prickly pear is often harvested and eaten, as are the pad-like arms. The arms themselves can be dangerous due to the thorns, but once properly prepared they can produce a tasty meal. Nectar and pulp gathered from both are used to make prickly pear nectar, which is a popular health food item.

· Saguaro Cactus – The gigantic saguaro cactus is composed of a tall, thick, columnar stem, which is usually 18 to 24 inches in diameter, often with several large arms curving upwards. It is these arms, which are technically branches, which give this plant what may be one of the most distinctive appearances of all cactus flowers. When you think of a desert horizon, you often picture the majestic saguaro reaching into the sky.

The skin of the saguaro is smooth and waxy and the trunk and stems have stout, 2-inch spines clustered on their ribs. When water is absorbed, the outer pulp of the Saguaro can expand like an accordion, which increases the diameter of the stem and to the point where the weight of the entire plant can increase by an entire ton.

The saguaro grows at a rate of about an inch every year, but can reach up to fifty feet in height. Specimens have been found that, due to their great height, are estimated at being centuries old. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that there may be saguaros that have lived for over a thousand years.

· Golden Barrel Cactus. These endangered cactus flowers are amongst the most popular in cultivation. They are characterized by a round barrel-shaped body with yellow flowers in the center. The structure of the cactus is ribbed, which allows for expansion and water storage. The prominence of spines has led to the amusing nickname, “Mother in-law’s Cushion.”

Despite the popularity, this species of cactus flowers is becoming rather rare in the wild. It is foreseeable that in the future they will be found only in gardens, where they are becoming widely used for their attractive and unique appearance.

Cactus Flowers – Where to Get Them

Cactus flowers are highly enjoyable specimens to grow in your home garden. They can also be grown in pots indoors, and make a lovely addition to a living room bay window. They are hardy and do not require frequent watering, meaning they are one of the few species of plants that can survive if you go away for a long vacation.

You can find cactus flowers for sale at the garden center or your local florist, whose shop will also be able to order in specific varieties for use in ornamental floral displays. Although bouquets of cactus flowers are impossible due to the lack of a stem, the plants themselves can be used in many attractive arrangements.

You can use their online store to order cactus flowers and other species for delivery to your home or to others as gifts. Whatever your purpose for owning these magnificent specimens of survival, you’ll be sure to love the attractive and robust appearance that they lend to the home and garden.

Copyright (c) 2008 – Brant Florist

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