Distribution Of Cactus Worldwide

Distribution Of Cactus

Cacti is an incredibly unique group of plants that can survive even in the harshest environments on earth. Today, we’ll discuss the distribution of cactus worldwide.

From tree-sized saguaros cacti to tiny button cacti, these species of plants are very diverse and can be found in many habitats across the world.

We’ll also explore the morphology of cactus in-depth, so you can get on your way to becoming a cacti expert!

Jokes apart, whether you’re a botanist or simply someone who loves nature, cacti are sure to leave you in awe with their remarkable morphology. That being said, let’s get started!

Distribution of Cactus Worldwide

Although cacti are usually associated with hot, dry environments like deserts, they can also grow in high-elevation mountain ranges and tropical rainforests.

Cacti are native to American regions – they range from Patagonia all the way to British Columbia and Western Canada.

For species that are drought-tolerant and have adapted to hot environments, cacti are situated in three primary centers –

  1. Mexico: Cactus can be found almost everywhere in Mexico, ranging from Inland Oaxaca (South) to Sonora (North). Currently, 114 species and 33 genera of cacti exist in Mexico.
  2. Southwestern United States: Cacti grow nearly everywhere across the Southern US. The majority of them are in Arizona, California, Texas, and New Mexico (especially in Chihuahuan, Mojave, and Sonoran deserts).
  3. Southwestern Andes: Peru is known for a wide range of unique cacti species that don’t exist anywhere else on earth. Particularly, the region is great for endemic cacti species.

On the other hand, climbing cacti and tree-living epiphytic have different primary centers as they require diverse and moister regions. They’re situated across –

  1. Southeastern Brazil: Cacti are mainly found in the Atlantic forests and coastal mountains of Southeastern Brazil. Most cacti species existing in Brazil thrive well in dry and rocky areas.
  2. Bolivia: Rhipsalideae are the most diverse species of cacti in the country.
  3. Central America: Hylocereeae and numerous other rare species can be found in the forested regions of Central America.

Here’s something interesting – there is one species of cactus that is native to both the Old World (a term used for species native to Europe, Asia, and Africa) and the Americas.

Referred to as Rhipsalis Baccifera, the species is native to both the Old World (tropical Sri Lanka, Africa, and Madagascar) and the USA.

Theories suggest that since the seeds of Rhipsalis are adapted to bird distribution, the species was carried across the world as seeds eaten by migratory birds

Additionally, alternative theories state that the species crossed with European ships trading across Africa and South America, following which birds have distributed them more widely.

There are plenty of other naturalized species that now exist around the world after humans introduced cacti to new areas. They can be found especially in Hawaii, the Mediterranean region, and Australia.

Although they have a wide distribution, many cacti species are facing threats of extinction.

Climate change, habitat destruction, and overcollection for ornamental purposes are factors that can affect cacti populations. Moreover, as most cacti are slow-growing, they’re particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Final Verdict

All in all, cacti are fascinating plants with incredible adaptability and diversity. Over millions of years, they have evolved to thrive even in the most challenging environments on earth.

With all of that being said, we hope to have helped you with our take on the distribution of cactus worldwide.

References:

  • https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Cactus-species-distribution-Richness-maps-generated-using-cactus-distribution-maps-from_fig1_323702460
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318432/

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