Growing a Cactus -Los Detalles Behind the Life of a Sustainable Plant
What comes to your mind when you think of a cactus?
Maybe you picture a green plant with thorns, sitting under the hot sun in the open desert —I can feel the heat just thinking about it!
You might also visualize a small succulent on your balcony that hardly needs any water –cheers for keeping a plant alive!
Or, tal vez, you may think about tu abuela cutting nopales into pieces for that delicious cactus salad –is your mouth watering yet?
However the cactus comes to your mind, it all comes down to one common word —
In other words, the cactus is an important plant because it helps us y nuestro ambiente, without hurting the needs of la gente in the future.
Let’s get the whole picture of how the cactus is one of the most sustainable plants in the world by starting with how and where it appears on our planet.
Where Do Cacti Grow?
This may or may not be a surprise to you, but cactus plants don’t only grow in hot, dry areas.
Yes, you'll see them in México and some states like Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Texas.1 But you can also find them en las montañas, rain forests, and colder places like Alaska and close to Antarctica! 2
There are about 2,000 different types of cacti found around the world and they all start life in a similar way.
Refresh that life biology section of your mind with the highlights of how these amazing plants are created:
Life Cycle of a Cactus
Some cactus plants have male and female parts that help them reproduce. The male part of a cactus plant is the one that carries the pollen. Because the bright colors of the pollen are easy to see, it attracts animals like birds and insects.
As the animals eat the pollen, they move it from one part of the plant to the female part. That’s when fruit begins to grow and the seeds from the fruit are created. The seeds are either eaten by other animals or moved by the wind. Depending on where the seeds fall and if the conditions are right, new cacti grow and the cycle starts again.
Cactus can also grow without seeds and flowers. How? Certain cactus plants, like the prickly pear and cholla, have weak stems. Because these types of cactus are not as strong as others, the stems fall. It’s when the stems are separated from the main cactus and on the ground that it can take root and form a new one.
Cactus Plant Benefits For the Planet
So how does the life cycle of a cactus tie in with sustainability?
As the world continues to get warmer, many plants are challenged with survival because of how much water they need.
A hotter world and menos lluvia is not a good mix for our crops. Except for one.
The prickly pear cactus.
Opuntia ficus-indica is the scientific name for this cactus. Why is it so special you may ask? The cactus pear plant is considered a bioenergy crop. This means that it can create energy made from its natural plant.
Replacing fossil fuels con un nopal? Amazing.
But how does this work?
Well, once the cactus is stripped from its fruit and pads, all that’s left is the outer layer of the cactus –it’s biomass.
What makes biomass important is that it stores chemical energy from the sun. La energía can be turned into heat, liquid, or gas. 3
Another reason the biomass of the cactus changes the game in sustainability is because it can turn a natural environment into an area that collects carbon dioxide. 4
Piénsalo, if you see a dry area that hardly gets any rain and think, “nothing can come from that,” think again through the lens of cactus benefits.
El nopal absorbs the carbon dioxide in the area and stores it.
Now that you’re thinking through the lens of cactus benefits, it may be easier to visualize dry areas with cactus pear plants. The area may not be the best fit for other crops, but it is for el nopal.
More areas covered with cacti means more opportunities for the creation of bioenergy.
Cactus Plant Benefits For Us
The cactus plant benefits don't stop there…
This special cactus plant uses a fraction of water and can stand more heat than other crops.
Here are some of the few ways the prickly pear cactus helps us out:
- Jams and Jellies: Come from the prickly pear cactus because the cactus has a lot of sugar.
- Pads: The part of the prickly pear cactus that’s eaten fresh or saved for later as a canned vegetable.
- Pads Part Two: This section of the cactus also benefits livestock because they can eat it due to all the water it holds! 5
But that’s not all.
Let’s take a look into how scientists are working hard to make sure que estemos bien.
Remember the word “genes” in science class? If not, no worries.
Genes carry information from parents to offspring. This information holds different characteristics, which is what makes every cactus unique. 6
Los científicos study how to manipulate the genes from the cactus to help other plants that aren’t as water-efficient as others.
Por ejemplo, during the day, the cactus shuts its openings to save water. This helps the water from evaporating due to the high temperature in most places where cactuses are found. En la noche, the grooves open.
Seeing how these intelligent plants work, scientists want to use the genes from the cactus fruit and place them with the genes of other plants so that they have the capacity to survive in seasons of drought.
More crops surviving in drought means more food for us to eat during droughts.
A Cactus Plant in Your Home
We’ve talked about cactus plants in the wild, but how do they benefit you en tu casa? Besides how aesthetically pleasing they look around the house, of course.
Let’s start with a common feeling most of us experience in our day-to-day lives…stress and anxiety.
Whatever negative energía the day may bring upon you, coming home to peace sounds like a great way to end the day, don't you think?
Maybe that means taking a nice, warm bath or a hot, steamy shower with your favorite cactus soaps! Your skin will thank you for nourishing it with plant butters and oils that don’t dry out your skin.
Por ejemplo, the Planta Futura Cactus Soap is a great choice to help calm la mente. Its subtle scent of lemongrass eases away the day's troubles and allows you to be at your best for the next day.
Need something with more exfoliation? Try out the Noche Clara Cactus Soap. That little scent of eucalyptus and sage oil is all you need to clear your mind and begin again.
But how do these amazing nopales create this feeling of peace?
The cactus plant shrinks the level of carbon oxide. In other words, carbon oxide is one of the number one reasons for feeling anxious and restless. By having a cactus plant in your home, you’re creating an environment of calmness. 7
Another reason why you may enjoy a cactus plant in a corner of your sala, or on top of your coffee table, is because it cleans the air inside your home.
Why not improve the air quality of your home with these beautiful plants? Purifying the air looks like the cactus taking in carbon dioxide and turning it into oxygen. You can breathe knowing that the cactus is helping get rid of those nasty toxins.
Fun fact, did you know that you can minimize CO2 in half with just one large cactus for every two people inside your home? Time to go cactus shopping!
But the benefits don’t stop there.
Along with peace and cleanliness, el nopal also helps with reducing noise.
The background noise of cars passing by, the dishwasher humming, or la tele playing a novela you’ve already watched for the 100th time, can all be subtle distractions in the tasks you need to finish.
Instead of losing your concentration and halting your day of productivity, your cactus minimizes that noise by 3-5 sound levels, or decibels.
And finally, how about that dry skin? You know, the white, flaky sections of your knuckles, elbows, or knees. A tragedy.
Thankfully, with a cactus plant in your home, it can help with giving tu casa just the right amount of humidity.
How? Through the magic of transpiration.
Basically, transpiration is when water from the soil is taken to the stem and then to the outer layer of the cactus. From there, the water evaporates through its pores and into the air. 8
Say goodbye to dry skin and any itches you may have!
Where Do We Go From Here?
Being mindful of what you bring into your space, put in your body, or place on your skin can make the world of a difference in your path to sustainability.
Whether you’re a pro in this area or just starting, add the Nopalera familia to your sustainability journey.
At Nopalera, we use clean ingredients and find beauty in the naturalness.
It’s time we start investing in ourselves and our planet in a sustainable way. Why not do it with a company committed to making high-end products with resilience as its foundation?
Check out the cactus products we offer by viewing our website!
No te arrepentirás.
Written by Mayra Gómez-Sánchez
- “Southwest USA Landscapes - Cacti.” The American Southwest, https://www.americansouthwest.net/cacti.html. Accessed 7 April 2023.
- Cooper, A., et al. “Cactus (Cactaceae) - In Depth.” Eduscapes, https://eduscapes.com/nature/cactus/index1.htm. Accessed 7 April 2023.
- “Biomass explained - U.S. Energy Information Administration.” EIA, 2 June 2022, https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/. Accessed 7 April 2023.
- “What is a carbon sink?” ClientEarth, https://www.clientearth.org/latest/latest-updates/stories/what-is-a-carbon-sink/. Accessed 7 April 2023.
- Kozsan, Tiffany. “Study shows cactus pear as drought-tolerant crop for sustainable fuel and food.” University of Nevada, Reno, 3 March 2021, https://www.unr.edu/nevada-today/news/2021/cushman-cactus-pear-paper. Accessed 7 April 2023.
- Anzilotti, Amy W. “Genetics (for Parents) - Nemours KidsHealth.” Kids Health, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/about-genetics.html. Accessed 7 April 2023.
- “5 Top Benefits of Cactus Plant in Home.” India Gardening, https://indiagardening.com/indoor-gardening/benefits-of-cactus-plant-in-home/. Accessed 2 April 2023.
Written by Mayra Gómez-Sánchez