Cacti are frugal survivors. We know this. That you can make music with them, get intoxicated with them, build furniture out of them, probably not. Cacti – our topic today. And here are seven cool facts about cactus you – maybe – did not know about.
Cactus Fact #1: The Thorns are Actually Spines
What we commonly refer to as thorns in the cactus are actually spines: real organs of the plant, namely leaves. At least that’s how it used to be.In the course of evolution, spines have developed from this, which ensure the cacti survival even under the most extreme living conditions.
According to Wikipedia, botanically, “spines” are distinguished from “thorns”: spines are modified leaves, and thorns are modified branches.
Cactus Fact #2: The Spines are Weapons, Sun Protection, Drinking Straw and Coat
In their barren habitats, cacti would literally be found food for animals. Their spines prevent this. But they can do a lot more: They reflect sunlight and thus protect the plant from sunburn. On the other hand, they keep out the cold on icy nights. Clouds of mist condense on the spines to form water, which the cactus can then absorb. They also get caught in the fur of animals that pass by. Elsewhere they fall out, and a new cactus can grow. So they also help with the propagation.
Cactus Fact #3: Cacti are Musical
At least their spines. The largest specimens were previously used as gramophone needles.
Cactus Fact #4: You Can Eat Them
You can get the orange-red fruits of the prickly pear from the genus Opuntia in every delicatessen store. But the green parts of the plant are also edible. Steamed or fried, they become a sour, tasty vegetable. The oldest cactus cultivation in the world, which has existed in Erfurt since 1685, shows what can be conjured up from the thorny plants and put on the table.
Cactus Fact #5: One Can Get Intoxicated with Them
The Native Americans discovered 3,000 years ago that some species of cactus were intoxicating. They chewed pieces of the plants, believing they were closer to the gods. The best known is certainly the peyote cactus, which contains mescaline. Louis Lewin first approached this phenomenon scientifically in 1888. He examined the peyote cactus and was able to extract a substance called “anhalonin”. In 1896 Arthur Heffter was able to isolate the pure substance mescaline. Ernst Späth achieved the first total synthesis in 1919. With this he laid the basis for the synthetic production of the intoxicant. Since 1971 it has been declared illegal worldwide by the UN Convention. In the USA, mescaline possession is imprisonment for up to five years.
Cactus Fact #6: You Can’t Drink It
The idea that a cactus can quench thirst in the desert came from the pen of adventure writers. All you find when you cut open a cactus is a thick gel that you can’t drink. Extracting water from it on site is just as impossible as trying to extract water from a shower gel.
Cactus Fact #7: You Can Make Furniture Out of Them
Parts of the cacti can become woody over time. Column cacti in particular form large woody segments. This cactus wood has many advantages: It has no knotholes, it grew very straight. Due to its fiber structure, which is interspersed with cavities, it is flexible and yet very stable. Furniture from this wood has only been made in Latin America so far. In this country you will find toys for birds and reptiles that are kept as pets.