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Free Images of Cacti & Succulents
Note on large files:  Very large files may be bigger than your screen.  
Right click on any portion of the image showing and chose "save as". 

 

 

 

What's the difference between a Cactus and a Succulent?

The simple answer is that while all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti.  The common characteristic for both is the ability to store water in their leaves or stems in order to survive an arid habitat.

We all known that plants need water in order to grow.  Succulents are plants which are adapted to store water.  They grow in dry places, known as "xeric environments",  where it does not rain often.  Some succulents store water in their leaves, while others, known as "stem" succulents, store water in their stems or roots.  

Right:  Aloe Cactus - 1 png 480 x 487
Download Large here - 1732 x 1758

Cacti can be differentiated from succulents by the presence of "areaoles" which are specialized sites from which spines and bud grow.

A cactus plant is a member of the Cactaceae plant family within the Caryophyllales order.  Cacti (plural of cactus) inhabit very dry environments, or areas which are subject to some drought.  They grow naturally in the wild in North and South America.  While we think that cacti grow in the desert, nothing can grow in a true desert.  Cacti, however, grow in areas that are very dry in place which we may think of as deserts.  

It should also be noted that there are some succulents such as Schlumbergera and Epiphyllum which grow as epiphytes in rainforests.  Schulmbergera are commonly known as "Christmas cactus".  These plants prefer semi-shade with humid conditions and grow in jungle-type woods attached to trees.

Left:  Cactus - 1 png 480 x 494
Download large here - 1540 x 1585

Cacti and succulents have adapted to collect water efficiently, store it for long periods of time and conserve water by minimizing evaporation.  Plants have thick, hard-walled stems that may be spongy or hollow.  A thick, waxy coating helps to keep water from evaporating.  Unlike regular leaves which lose a lot of water, cacti have spines or scales.

Cacti species grow in a wide variety of shapes and sizes ranging from the miniscule 1 cm to tall species up to 63 feet tall!

In order to preserve the water they do have, cacti do not have leaves as we think of them - instead, they have structures called "areoles" and spines. Areoles look like small cushions of bristles from which spines and buds grow.  This is unique to cacti!  While some succulents also have spines, they don't grow from areoles.  It is on the areoles that we sometimes find cacti in flower.  It is the stems of cacti that carry out photosynthesis. 

 

Cleistocactus strausii

A thick layer of spines as in the Cleistocactus strausii below, provides shade and protection for the plant.  Additionally, spines provide protection from predators that wish to eat the plant.

 

Harry brown cactus Cleistocactus strausii

Cleistocactus strausii - 1   Cactaceae Family
(Straus's Firecracker Cactus)  from s. Bolivia and n. Argentina

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 3456 x 4608  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

 

Mammillaria

 

Furry brown cactus Mammillaria prolifera var. texana

Mammillaria prolifera var. texana - 1
(Texas nipple Cactus Mamillaire)  Cactaceae Family

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 4608 x 3456  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here

 

 

Furry brown cactus

Mammillaria prolifera var. texana - 2
(Texas nipple Cactus Mamillaire)  Cactaceae Family

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 4608 x 3456  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here

 

 

Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit, also known as "pitahaya" comes from the Pitahaya producing cactus in the Hylocereus genus.  There are several varieties.  This plant was originally native to Mexico.  It is now widely grown in Asian countries.

 

Red spikey Dragon fruit

Dragon Fruit - 1

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 3264 x 2448  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

 

Red Dragon fruit from cactus.

Dragon Fruit - 2

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 2448 x 3264  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

 

Red fruit of cactus

Dragon Fruit - 3

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 3264 x 2448  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

 

Miscellaneous Unidentified Cacti

 

tall cactus plants with round blooms and needles

Cactus - 3  
Some type of Columnar Cacti

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 3264 x 2448  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

 

tall green cactus plants with round shoots and long needles

Cactus - 4
Some type of Columnar Cacti

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 3264 x 2448  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

 

Cactus garden in Aruba

Aruba - 7
A cactus garden in Aruba.

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 3264 x 2448  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

 

Dirt pathway through Aruba cactus garden.

Aruba - 8
A cactus garden in Aruba.

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 2448 x 3264  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

 

Cactus with pink fringers spiral flower bloom.

Cactus - 5

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 3209 x 4279  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

 

cactus plants growing on tree in mexico

Cactus - 6  (Kohunlich-10)

Medium - 640 x 480  Right click on above image and chose "save as".

Large - 3456 x 4608  -  For the full-size resolution of this image click here.

 

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The Wonder 
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"A hedge between
keeps
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~ French Proverb ~

 

 

 

 

"The virtuous to
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Where pleasures
unembitter'd flow,
Where, leading up
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Vigor & Youth
dance hand in hand,

Whiles Zephyr, with
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