Monday, July 18, 2011

High Desert Plants & Wildlife: A Taos Unlimited Blog Series, Part 3

Cactus of the Northern New Mexico High Desert
We will complete this series on cactus with some general facts about the species.

All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. What separates a cactus from a succulent is the organs that produce the spines, and some other characteristics specific to fruit formation.

Many of the smaller cactus that live in a desert environment are situated under bushes or in behind rocks and do not receive constant, intense sunlight. The native habitat of many other cacti is often at a higher altitude (where the light is strong but the temperatures are far cooler than on the desert floor), or in tropical jungle-like environments. Many cactus dwell at higher altitudes and underneath pine trees, where they receive very little direct sun.

This vintage postcard illustrates the colorful variety of cacti (cactus) that abound in Northern New Mexico and the entire Southwest. The cacti are quite fascinating plants that grow in all shapes and sizes, with flower blossoms of many kinds and colors.

All cacti need a rapidly draining, porous soil mix. If kept fairly dry, most cactus can tolerate without difficulty night-time temperatures which are consistently as low as 32 degrees.

Cacti have a thick, hard-walled, succulent stem. When it rains, water is stored in the stem. The stems are photosynthetic, green, and fleshy. The inside of the stem is either spongy or hollow (depending on the cactus). A thick, waxy coating keeps the water inside the cactus from evaporating.

Many cactus can also be grown from broken-off parts of the plant, but the new plant will be genetically identical to the original plant.

Read more about Northern New Mexico Cactus on Taos Unlimited

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