Homeland of Cactuses: Where did these Amazing Flora Representatives Come From?

There is a popular belief that the homeland of a cactus is a desert, in which for many kilometers there is nothing but sand and wandering camels. Indeed, these unpleasant, prickly plants are primarily associated with desert landscapes. And they came to us from the hot African continent, and in addition, these succulents are able to exist in stony, lifeless soils, resistant to the scorching sun. However, they are not from the Sahara, Gobi or Kalahara. Their range of growth is somewhat different, but today it has expanded so much that the family members are found almost all over the world.
What country can boast that is the real home of this unusual plant – cactus?

About the homeland of the succulents and their distribution

Today, these cactuses grow on any continent where there are suitable climatic conditions for them. But even where the climate is not suitable, they are successfully grown in greenhouses and as room flowers.

It turns out that cactuses have become known outside their country of origin not before the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. And the birthplace of the room cactus is recognized as South America. It is from here these plants began to spread throughout the planet, taking root even in places where the climate is different from usual. Some varieties were first discovered in North America, as well as on the islands of the West Indies.

Ripsalis baccifera grow not only in America, but also in Africa, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka. They got here without human help, because it is believed that the seeds of these plants were spread by migratory birds.

But the most beautiful ornament, consisting of flat leaflets-palms, can be found on the territory of India, the Mediterranean countries, Germany, Austria, Mozambique, on the islands of the Malay Archipelago and even in Australia, thanks to the intervention of human hands. The type of Opuntia humifusa ornament grows far from its native coast, and not only in the Mediterranean, but also on the Crimean coast, in southern regions of the Volga region, on the Russian Black Sea coast, in the areas of Gelendzhik and Novorossiysk.

Mexico and Cactuses

There are not so many places on Earth where the winter weather is as warm as in summer and Mexico is one of them. Maybe that’s why there is a great variety of cacti here, about 1000 species – spherical, pillow-shaped, column-shaped, tree-shaped, compact and very large. It is not without reason that Mexico was called the “country of cacti”.

These plants have entered so deeply into the life of local people that it is almost impossible to separate such concepts as Mexico and cacti. The modern capital of the state, Mexico City, is located on the site of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlán, whose name translates as ‘the place of sacred punctuation’.

In general, it is difficult to imagine the landscape of this country without these plants, because most often, with some exceptions, it consists of mountains, desert expanses, and… cacti. At the end of 5-6 months of drought, the desert is waiting for transformation, it turns green, and some of the cactuses bloom luxuriously. Some of them attract more attention than others:

It is impossible not to notice huge cactuses-candelabra, the height of which can exceed three meters. If you look closely, you can see them small white flowers.

These tree-like cactuses are successfully grown in pots, in such conditions it looks like a compact spherical succulent firmament, decorated with bundles of colored needles. In the natural environment, pherocactuses are more compact, their tops dotted with dark reddish thorns, which emit sweet nectar.



For us it is nothing more than a cute indoor and greenhouse plant, and for Mexicans – an important industrial culture. Here grow whole plantations of ornaments, whose fruits and shoots are eaten, fresh and canned dishes and drinks are prepared, and they are used as fences and forage for livestock.

Opunas are fast-growing cactuses, so they often grow outside the plantations, reducing the area of pasture. Therefore, these plantings need constant control and restriction. Some succulent species brought to Australia have become real pest weeds. And in order to produce them, they needed help from outside, moth was brought into the country from Argentina.

As practice has shown, the most frost-resistant cactus also belongs to the genus of opus. The dark-bellied cactus is successfully grown in the Astrakhan region, where it withstands temperatures as low as -20 degrees in the open air without additional protection.

Pachycereus Pringla (cardon-cactus)
This giant, abundantly covered with thorns, grows to a height of 10 meters. Perhaps due to such natural protection, succulents live up to 350-400 years and gain weight up to 8000-10000 kg.

This is just a small part of the cacti that grow not only in America, spreading throughout the world, no matter where their homeland. These succulents managed to gain incredible popularity and today, many cactus growers are happy to breed these interesting plants, adding to their collections and conducting various experiments.

Scroll to Top