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Cactus or Succulent?

How does one tell the difference? It is actually quite easy once you get down to it and it is not whether the plants have spines or not. Succulent is a term for the type of plant that stores water in itsleaves, stems or roots. Members of the cactus family do store water for periods of drought which make them succulents. However, cacti have areoles. Areoles are the distinctive feature of cacti that identify them as separate from other succulent plants. The areoles of a cactus are the points from which new growth, spines, blooms, and roots occur. An easy rule of thumb to follow is: all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.

Some common succulents:
  • Aloe
  • Jade
  • Lithops
  • Sedum
  • Sempervivum
Some common cacti:
  • Cholla
  • Echinopsis
  • Echinocereus
  • Opuntia
  • Saguaro
Areole of a cactus
Areole of a cactus