Kinds Of Cactus

Learn about kinds of cactus you can find in the world. A cactus can live in harsh environments making them ideal as container plants in hot regions. Cacti are also known sources of medicinal substances. Some kinds of cactus are rare, while others are found in the wild, especially in places where the conditions are optimum for growth and propagation. The desert areas of Latin America and Northern America are home to various types.

Classification of cacti is a complicated process as many species show varied morphological characteristics. Some species are small enough to fit in a small glass container, while other species can grow taller than humans. Cacti can also be classified according to the main purpose they serve.

Ornamental Cactus

There are some kinds of cactus species that are used for horticultural purposes. Echinopsis pachanoi is an example. The columnar growth of the stems can be the main reason why collectors pay a lot for this cactus. Ornamental cacti are usually grown in controlled environment to moderate the growth of the plant, as well as the beauty of the stems. Greenhouse growing is also recommended for collectors in the northern hemisphere because the external environment is not optimum for the growth of these desert plants.

Other cactus species used for ornamental purposes include succulent plants from the wild, although some kinds of cactus are more difficult to raise in a domesticated environment.

Cactus Used for Food and Medicine

Some kinds of cactus are best for cooking and brewing drinks. An example of a cactus cultivated or harvested from the wild for eating is the Indian fig cactus. The fruits as well as the pads of the cactus are cleaned vigorously to remove the spines. The usual way of cooking these is by boiling. The main difference between wild plants and the cultivated variety is the number of spines. Wild plants have larger and more numerous spines, while cultivated varieties may have no spines at all.

Over the years, other kinds of cactus are mass cultivated to provide specialty food products in some parts the Northern America. Buds of Cylindropuntia sp. flowers, for instance, can be eaten. In general, the succulent parts of cactus are edible, because the flesh contains mostly water. Some people prefer to dry the stems and fruits for use in making tea. Cactus tea is a known tranquilizer in alternative medicine, and this effect may be largely due to the sedative components in some parts of the plant.

Psychoactive Cactus

In some areas of the world, growing some kinds of cactus is prohibited. There may be a list of species that are allowed in gardens and lawns, but some species are definitely banned. Some cactus species have extraordinarily high levels of psychoactive substances, which are chemicals in the plants that may trigger psychological responses in humans. When consumed deliberately or accidentally, the substances from these cacti cause hallucinations.

Peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, is one of the cactus species harvested for psychoactive substances like mescaline. Mescaline is a psychedelic alkaloid compound that occurs naturally in cacti, as well as other plants in smaller quantities.