Cacti and desert succulents are among the most common plants occurring in the deserts of the southwest. Eleven species of cacti grow in the Monument, and two species of succulent agaves are found here. Most are found in conjunction with grassland meadows, but it is not unusual to find a pincushion cactus growing under an Apache pine in the upper elevations of the Monument or a hedgehog cactus poking out from a rocky outcropping. Pincushion cactus, hedgehog cactus, prickly pear, and cane cholla are the most common cacti seen. Succulents, such as the agave, look similar to cactus in that they have fleshy leaves armed with spines or teeth, but tend to be faster growing and only flower once, after which they die.
Cacti and agaves are well adapted to life in the arid desert regions - they make efficient use of sporadic rainfall, and can retain moisture during extremely hot and dry periods. During the flowering season, bees, moths, hummingbirds, and birds feed on the nectar and pollen of the blossoms. Other animals, such as insects and javalina, feed on the flesh and fruits of certain types of cacti (usually the ones with fewer spines). Cacti are both an interesting and important part of the ecosystems in the southwest deserts. They also provide a vibrant addition to the spring and summer wildflower displays that occur when rainfall is plentiful.
Cacti / Desert Succulents
Last updated: February 24, 2015