Water remains an essential component for the survival of any living thing. Most plants in tropical regions absorb water from the environment and then lose it quickly through transpiration. However, plants found in the arid areas have to adapt to prevent loss of moisture. As such, these kinds of plants often utilize the water in the form of dew and absorb it fast enough before sunrise. One example of a plant that can go for long periods without water is the cactus. Therefore, how long can a cactus live without water? Read on to learn more.

Ever wondered how a small plant such as a cactus survives in the harshest of conditions like those found in deserts? Well, the cactus has adapted over the years to enable it to store water even during the lightest downpour. Some cacti varieties stay up to 2 years without a drop of water. Here are some of the survival tactics that help determine how long can a cactus live without water.

How Long Can a Cactus Live Without Water

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Adaptations that Help Cacti Live Without Water for Long

• Stomata open during the night

Most plants open their stomata during the day to allow the intake of sunlight and uptake of carbon dioxide which helps in photosynthesis. However, if the cactus opened their pores in the daytime, they would suffer from excess water loss. As such, cactus plants take in carbon dioxide at night and store it for use during daytime in the process of photosynthesis.

• Prickly spines

Unlike other plants, cacti don’t have dangling leaves but instead have some spines. The idea of not having leaves helps the plant to conserve moisture for the hottest temperatures. Besides, the prickly spines prevent the wild animals from feasting on the plants as they try to quench their thirst. The spines also collect dew during the night and direct the water down the stem to the ground where it’s absorbed by the cactus plant.

How Long Can a Cactus Live Without Water

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• Shallow roots

In tropical climates, plants have profound roots to tap into groundwater. Since cactus grows in arid areas, it cannot have deep roots since sandy soils don’t hold in water. Instead, the plant has broad and shallow roots to help absorb any water drops even from the lightest rainfalls. Since rain on the scorching sand evaporates very fast, the cactus roots help it to take in as much water within the shortest time possible.

Research indicates that some of the thickest cactus plants can take up to 100 gallons of water during rain and store it within its stem. The shallow roots often wither out during the driest seasons to enable the plant to survive with its small water reservoirs. However, as soon as the rain comes, the roots grow back swiftly.

• Active during the wet season

The cacti plants remain inactive during the hot season. As such, it’s unlikely to find the plant growing or even flowering during the hot season. Ideally, flowering and growth require a lot of energy and water. It’s no wonder, the cacti plant has adapted to flowering and growing rapidly during the rainy season.

• Special stems

The cacti plants have folding stems that enable them to expand as a way to hold in more water. Besides the thick folding stems, the top layer of the plant usually has a waxy shinning coating that acts as a waterproof material. It is no wonder; a cactus can survive for years without any rainfall. The plant holds on to its water reservoirs even after being uprooted.

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• Mucilage cells

Ever cut a cactus plant? Then, you’ll admit to seeing some slimy liquid. Well, the slimy flesh part of the plant is the mucilage cell. During the rainy season, the cells absorb and store in a lot of water, making them look swollen and succulent. During prolonged drought periods, the cells share the water with the rest of the plant thus preventing it from experiencing any water stress. Ideally, the sharing of water through to the rest of the cactus takes place after the digestion of the mucilage tissue. In the process, water gets shared with other cells.

Can you Drink Cactus Water?

By now you, probably the thought of drinking cactus juices may have crossed your mind. Well, not to kill your dreams, but no cactus water isn’t safe for drinking. This is especially so if you’re on an empty stomach. The cactus water is highly acidic rendering it unsafe for human consumption. The human body doesn’t have the digestive mechanisms to break down the highly acidic content from the cactus.

However, botanists recommend that if you find yourself stranded in the desert without any form of hydration or even food to it, you can always eat or drink from specific varieties of cacti plants. For instance, the Fishhook Barrel Cactus remains safe for consumption. The Fishhook Barrel Cactus produces nutritious fruits between March and November. The fruits also have a black seed that scientists have proven reliable and nutritious for human beings.

How Long Can a Cactus Live Without Water

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How Long Can A Cactus Live Without Water in my Garden?

Growing cactus is manageable because they don’t require as much attention like other plants. Of course, you have to carry out other house chores and not spend the whole day taking care of a plant. Well, the amount of water a homegrown cactus needs depends on the variety you choose to grow, its original habitat growth requirements, and the current ecological conditions within your location.

If you choose the desert variety, then it requires lesser water amounts. However, if you select a type originating from the Andes Mountain regions or Tropical South America’s cactus, then, get ready to give it ample amounts of water every few days. You ought to strike a balance between not denying your plants enough water and not overdoing it to achieve healthy cacti. Here are some of the things to consider when determining the amount of water they need.

– Let the soil dry completely between one watering session to another.

– During spring and fall seasons, offer you plants enough water to facilitate growth and flowering.

– In the drier seasons, you can only water the cactus once a week because the plant is dormant in hot weather.

– If you’ve planted in pots, then you need to water more often than if they’re planted on the ground.

– If you live in a colder region compared to the original cactus habitat, then it’s advisable not to water your plants at all.

– Watch out for any signs of withering or drying stems to determine whether your cactus has enough water and act accordingly.