Difference Between Cactus and Succulent

The main difference between cactus and succulent is that cactus consists of areoles and no leaves whereas succulent contains fleshy leaves and no areoles. Another important difference between cactus and succulent is that cactus is adapted to live in desert conditions while the leaves of succulent store more water, adapting to semi-desert conditions. Furthermore, cactus is a type of succulent.

Cactus and Succulent are two types of flowering plants adapted to live in dry environments. Succulent stores water in their stem, roots, and leaves. Some succulents include aloe, sedum, haworthia, sempervivum, as well as cacti. The main characteristic feature of cactus is the presence of areoles.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Cactus
     – Definition, Facts, Characteristics
2. What is Succulent
     – Definition, Types, Characteristics
3. What are the Similarities Between Cactus and Succulent
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Cactus and Succulent
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Areoles, Cactus, Fleshy Leaves, Habitat, Spines, Succulent

Difference Between Cactus and Succulent - Comparison Summary

What is Cactus

Cactus refers to a succulent plant with a thick fleshy stem, which typically bears spines, but lacks leaves. It belongs to the family Cactaceae. Cactus ranges from Canada through Central America and the West Indies, and south to the cold areas of Chile and Patagonia. The richest collection of cactus is found in Mexico. Cactus does not have leaves as an adaptation to desert conditions. The cylinder-like body stores water. Moreover, the thick skin of the plant reduces the evaporation of water. Most cactus species consist of spines or bristles to protect against the browsing animals. Instead, the other cactus species consists of woolly covering or long hair. 

Difference Between Cactus and Succulent

Figure 1: Rebutia muscula

Cactus is characterized by the presence of areoles, which are small, rounded, fleshy, cushion-like mounds. The spines, hairs as well as the flowers arise from the areoles. Typically, cactus grows as pot plants. 

What is Succulent

Succulent refers to a plant with thick fleshy leaves or stems adapted to storing water. Aloe, sedum, haworthia, sempervivum, and cacti are different types of succulents. Most succulents are adapted to semi-desert conditions. They grow in areas with rainy seasons followed by dry periods. The leaves, stem, and roots of succulents are fleshy since they store water in the sap. The waxy or horny material that covers the plant body reduces evaporation. Apart from semi-dried areas, some succulents grow on mountains, forests, and near lakes and sea. 

Main Difference - Cactus and Succulent

Figure 2: Astroloba tenax

Similarities Between Cactus and Succulent

  • Cactus and succulents are plants that live in dry environments.
  • Both can store moisture, and both contain thick, fleshy parts.
  • The spiny thrones of both plants protect them from predators and other browsing animals.
  • They can be grown from seeds.

Difference Between Cactus and Succulent

Definition

Cactus: A succulent plant with a thick fleshy stem, which typically bears spines, but lacks leaves

Succulent: A plant with thick fleshy leaves or stems adapted to storing water

Found in

Cactus: Indigenous from Alaska to Chile in the Western Hemisphere

Succulent: Native to most parts of the world

Areoles

Cactus: Present

Succulent: Absent

Leaves

Cactus: Absent

Succulent: Present

Type of Dry Conditions

Cactus: Desert conditions

Succulent: Semi-desert conditions

Store Water

Cactus: In the stem

Succulent: In leaves, stem, and roots

Conclusion

Cactus is a desert plant with areoles and no leaves. Succulent is a semi-desert plant with fleshy leaves and no areoles. Cactus is a type of succulent. Both cactus and succulent are adapted to live in dry environments by storing water. The main difference between cactus and succulent is the structure and habitat.

Reference:

1. “Cactus.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 18 May 2018, Available Here
2. Rushing, Felder. “Succulent Plants.” DIY, DIY Network, 1 Dec. 2017, Available Here

Image Courtesy:

1. “Rebutia muscula” By No machine-readable author provided. Chilepine assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims). (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Astroloba tenax 6″ By S Molteno – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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