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Types of Cactus, Characteristics, and Properties

Types of Cactus, Characteristics, and Properties: If you like cacti, know more about the types of cactus, their classification, and their characteristics and properties, you will love it.

Types of Cactus
Types of Cactus

And in today’s note, we will delve into the world of these incredible plants that have adapted to survive in climates and lands where the vast majority of plants would not have the slightest chance.

Types of Cactus, Characteristics, and properties

Before getting fully into the types of cactus and their classification, we will briefly discuss their characteristics and add, since it is exciting, a bit of history.

If you are thinking of buying a cactus, I recommend you read this complete note (which also includes the basic cactus care), so you can make your choices correctly.

Parts of a Cactus and its Characteristics

The cactuses are roughly 5 main components:

  • Areolas: They are buds, usually of another color, that protrude from the stem and from where the thorns are born.
  • Thorns: They are leaves modified to avoid the loss of water.
  • Stems: They are green and thickened, modified to accumulate a large amount of water. There are three different ways about which I tell you later on this same note.
  • Flowers: Beautiful, lonely and spiral. They are born from the areola.
  • Fruits: they are shaped like berries or capsules, some are edible, like prickly pears.

Flowers and fruits may not be present in some species.


Types of Cactus
Types of Cactus

Since they have adapted to areas of extreme hot climates, the photosynthesis of the cactus is done at night, unlike the non-cacti plants.

Types of Cactus – Classification

The main classification that is made to determine in some way the types of cactus, is the shape of the stem, fundamentally, there are three ways:

1. Claudio

Types of Cactus
Types of Cactus

This type of stem is flattened, with a shape like a tennis racket. 
Example: Plants of the genus Opuntia or cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia Vulgaris)

2. Columnar

Here the stem has a cylindrical shape, which may or may not have ramifications. In this case, also a sub-qualifying species is presented:

  • Bastion: When the division is at the base of the stem
  • Monotone: When the division is in the middle of the stem
  • Acrotona: When the division is at the tip of the stem

Example: The saguaro or sahuaro (Carnegiea gigantea), which is one of the most typical Mexican cacti.

3. Globose

In this group are cacti that have a rounded stem shape, as if it were a barrel.

Example: We can find here, among other possibilities, three different cactus genera:

  • Echinocactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
  • Melocactus (Melocactus concinnus)
  • Mammillaria (Mammillaria fraileana)
Types of Cactus
Types of Cactus

There are more than 200 genera of cactus, with more than 10,000 species, so when talking about the types of cactus, I have told you about the largest division, based on the characteristics of the stem, within each of them, we can find several genera, with dozens of cactus species with characteristics that are added or eliminated.


It is estimated that the cactus began to form no less than about 30 to 40 million years ago, some 10 million years after the great Pangea (united continents) separated. Some theorists claim that, for that reason, they are only found in America, except for some rare exception.

Name’s origin

Types of Cactus
Types of Cactus

If we refer to the etymology of the word, comes from a Greek term: Κaκτοc kaktos, which was used the first time by a Greek philosopher: “Theophrastus” that referred to a species of thistle with thorns that could be found on the island of Sicily.

Basic care of the cactus

  • We will always use a substrate with very, very good drainage and composed of a permeable material, such as for example, coarse river sand.
  • One of the most widespread ideal mixtures is based on blond peat, coarse sand, and ground charcoal.
  • Another simpler option is to use 70% of river sand of different granulometries and the remaining 30% of humus.
  • We must place them (either indoors or outdoors) in a very bright area with warm temperatures.
  • It is usually advisable to avoid exposure to the sun during the hours of greatest intensity, since they may suffer burns. That yes, each cactus has its own requirements of the sun, according to the thorns, woody, etc. So always read about the cactus care that you are cultivating in particular.
  • We should never wet the cactus itself, you have to water only on the substrate and when it looks dry.
  • Its active growing season is during spring and summer.
Types of Cactus
Types of Cactus
  • They enter the resting period during autumn and winter, at this time it is advisable to reduce and even omit the risks and remove them from a place that has high temperatures.
  • Cacti not water for any reason if the temperature is below 10 degrees Celsius.
  • You do not need much fertilizer to thrive, but if you want to fertilize it, especially since you have it in a pot, you should do it during the spring and never during the autumn and winter.
  • Cacti are not exempt from diseases and pests, the most common are fungi, such as fusariosis, Phytophthora, botrytis and rust, cottony cochineal, root cochineal, and spider mites.

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