House 4- Cacti and Succulents

Cacti and Succulents House 4
This collection features species of plants from deserts around the world! Deserts are dry places on the Earth with little to no rainfall. Deserts receive less than 10 inches of rain in a year. To compare, our yearly average rainfall in Buffalo is 38 inches! Most desert plants are succulents, meaning that they store water inside of the leaves, stems, or roots. Cacti, euphorbs, and agave are just some of the desert plants featured in this exhibit.  

What can you find in this greenhouse?

Cacti, Cactaceae 
Cacti, are succulent plants that store water in their stems, roots and leaves. There are over 2,000 species of cacti, all of which are native to North, Central, and South America. Though they vary greatly in size and shape, all cacti have sharp spines that protect them from predators. These spines are actually modified leaves and vary greatly depending on the type of cacti. Some, like the Mexican Fire Barrel Cactus, are long and thick. Others, might be as small and thin as a needle. 

Agave, Agave 
There are many different species of agave plants, most of which grow in the deserts of Mexico and the Southwest United States. Agave plants produce thick, long leaves that grow in a rosette. Most species grow long, needle-like spines along the edges and tips of the leaves, resulting in the common misconception that agave are cacti (they are actually in the asparagus family!). Some agave species, like our Weber's Agave, can grow extremely large, producing leaves as long as 8 feet! Their flowers can be even taller and grow on a large stalk at the center of the leaves. 

Barrel Cactus, Echinocactus sp. - There are a number of species of barrel cacti that live in American deserts. Their large, cylindrical shape allows them to store large amounts of moisture. Barrel cacti are covered in large, thick spines which help protect them from any animals that might eat them.

Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia sp. - Like all other true cactus species, prickly pears are native to dry and arid regions of the Americas. However, they are surprisingly cold tolerant and can grow in cooler regions. Prickly pears produce an edible fruit that varies in color depending on species. Prickly pear fruit, sometimes called cactus figs, is covered in tiny spines that must be carefully removed before consumption.

Euphorbia are an extremely large and diverse genus of flowering plants with over 2,000 species. Euphorbia from the deserts of Africa and Madagascar have evolved with physical characteristics and forms similar to cacti in the Americas. Due to similar shapes and their spines, they are often mistaken for cacti species. All euphorbia species have a poisonous, milky, white, latex-like sap inside their leaves and stems. 

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