What’s So Special About Cacti?

Land iguana resting underneath a prickly pear cactus in the Galápagos Islands.

Because our Creator created them! That’s why!!! Cacti are unlike any other plant life. Cacti occur in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Cacti don’t have leaves but spines. (more about spines down further). Cacti have thickened, fleshy parts adapted to store water as well as defending against predators.

Our Creator created them unique just like he created us!

In chapter 10 of Steps to Christ, By Ellen White says this about nature…”Many are the ways in which God is seeking to make Himself known to us and bring us into communion with Him. God would have His children appreciate His works and delight in the simple, quiet beauty with which He has adorned our earthly home. He is a lover of the beautiful, and above all that is outwardly attractive He loves beauty of character; He would have us cultivate purity and simplicity, the quiet graces of the flowers.

And God cares for everything and sustains everything that He has created.

The poet and the naturalist have many things to say about nature, but it is the Christian who enjoys the beauty of the earth with the highest appreciation, because he recognizes his Father’s handiwork and perceives His love in flower and shrub and tree. No one can fully appreciate the significance of hill and vale, river and sea, who does not look upon them as an expression of God’s love to man.

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.” Psalm 33:5; 107:43.

All forms of cacti are considered to be among the best plants at reducing the levels of bacteria and radiation in their surroundings. If you are looking to improve your air quality, you should get a cactus. After dark, a cactus will absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and then release oxygen.

During our recent trip out west, I wanted to see those really tall cacti that you see in the movies. I wanted to check them out up close and personal! I believe cacti define the American Southwest. For several desert birds, cactus is not only a source of food but a good shelter. Saguaro cactus make a perfect host for most of these birds. These birds are the Gila woodpecker which excavates their nests on the saguaro’s pulpy flesh.

Knot and flowers!

The saguaro is a tree-like cactus species in that they can grow to be over 12 meters tall. It is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican state of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California. The saguaro blossom is the state wildflower of Arizona. The saguaro’s flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds, bats, as well as bees, moths, and other insects. Hummingbirds would have a difficult time migrating over the southwestern desert between their winter and summer ranges without cacti flowers as a source of food. Some cactus flowers form long tubes, up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) so that only moths can reach the nectar and thus pollinate the blossoms. There are also specializations for bats, hummingbirds, and particular species of bees.

Because saguaros grow so slowly, it might take 50 to 75 years for them to grow their first arms. Arms are important to them because they store extra water. After 100 years, they usually have several arms. After 200 years they have many arms.

Galapagos hawk resting on a prickly pear cactus.
Blooming cacti .

Our awesome Creator created a wonderful living, ecosystem with Cacti providing food and water to desert animals such as dear, turkeys gophers, rabbits and tortoises to name a few. Cacti provide fruit and homes for many living creatures. Cacti are native to the Americas, ranging from Patagonia in the south to parts of western Canada in the north—except for Rhipsalis baccifera, which also grows in Africa and Sri Lanka.

Goats, birds, ants, mice, and bats contribute significantly to the spreading of the seeds. (New Word Enclypedia, Cactus)

Backlit spines of prickly pear cactus.

Photosynthesis is usually a leaf function, but since cactuses have no (or almost no) leaves, photosynthesis happens in the green tissues that cover the succulent stems. Spines cover the plant’s surface, along with what look like fine, dense hairs, which together shade the cactus and protect it from intense sunlight. They also slow moisture loss from microscopic pores in the stem that open to release oxygen and to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the pores are open, the cactuses can lose water to evaporation. Air trapping is when the spines help break airflow around a cactus plant by creating a buffer that hinders water evaporation.

What a unique find! A heart shaped pad!

In the Galápagos Islands you can find several species of cacti. Prickly pear cacti cover 97% of the land mass on the Galápagos Islands. Six endemic species of prickly pear cacti (Opuntia) are found some of which have multiple varieties. Prickly pears have thigmotactic anthers; when they are touched they curl over, depositing their pollen. This allows them to self-pollinate, so that they can reproduce even when there are no other cacti in the surrounding area.

Lone cactus in the Galápagos located on a ridge over looking the Pacific.

Traveling in Baja, Ca and south of San Felipe is one of the delightful treasures of the Baja peninsula—Valle de los Gigantes, or Valley of the Giants. The area earns its name from the massive cardón cacti that grow to heights of nearly 60 feet tall and weigh up to 25 tons. There are 120 species of cactus in Baja, but the cardón is the largest cactus, not just on the peninsula, but in the world. Many of these prickly giants are over 100 years old and scientists believe that some cardón live to be 200 years old. The cardón cacti of this region are so unique that one cactus was transported all the way to Spain for the world’s fair in 1992.

The cardón cactus is native to northwestern Mexico found in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Sonora.

Stenocereus thurberi, the organ pipe cactus, is a species of cactus native to Mexico and the United States. The species is found in rocky desert. Two subspecies are recognized based on their distribution and height. The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is named for the species. Wikipedia
Dry, hot and arid.. perfect weather for various type of fauna!

Many people mistakenly refer to cardón as saguaro, and although the two cacti appear very similar, there are no saguaro in Baja (they are found in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico). The differences between the two cacti are slight—the cardón generally have more branches that grow on the stem toward the base. They also have fewer ribs on the stems and blossoms that appear lower on the stem. The cardón have slightly different spines and spinier fruit than the saguaro.

Too tall!

Camels are among the animals that depend on cactus. These animals eat Prickly Pear cactus’s pads and spines. You must be wondering how they manage to eat this cactus with sharp spines. Well, it’s all thanks to their hard palate on their mouths. They teeth grind the cactus against the roof of their mouth. . They chew the food in a rotating manner and redistribute pressure from the cactus in the mouth. Their papillae slide the cactus needles down on their throat without poking them. Sounds painful to me!

Check out more images after the list of resources.


The Desert Cactus- Sidney R. Gill, bibletruthpublishers.com

Prickly Pear Cactus, galaoagosvonservation.org. Sticking Up For Cactus,

Cactus, newworldencyclopedia.org

Prickly Pear Cactus

Sticking up for cactus


Valle de los Gigantes: Valley of the Giant Cardón Cacti, Baja Travel club

Cactus located in the arid region on the Galápagos Islands.
Protecting the wall.
Baby cactus, Galápagos Islands

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