Where do cacti live

Survivor Eight things you didn't know about cacti

1. The spines are actually thorns

What we commonly refer to as thorns in the cactus are actually thorns: real organs of the plant, namely leaves. At least it used to be like that. In the course of evolution, thorns have developed from it, which ensure the survival of the cacti even under the most extreme living conditions.

2. The thorns are weapons, sun protection, drinking straws and cloaks

In their barren habitats, cacti would literally be found food for animals. Their thorns 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 thorns to form water, which the cactus can then absorb. They also get stuck in the fur of animals that pass by. Elsewhere they fall out, a new cactus can grow. So they also help with the spread.

3. Cacti are musical

At least their thorns. The largest specimens were previously used as gramophone needles.

4. You can eat them

The orange-red fruits of the prickly pear from the genus Opuntia can be found in every delicatessen store today. 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. The Haage family invites you to a cactus dinner every year.

5. One can get intoxicated with them

The Native Americans discovered 3,000 years ago that some types of cactus have an intoxicating effect. 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 Sp├Ąth 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 Germany it is subject to the Narcotics Act; in the USA, mescaline possession is imprisonment for up to five years. Handling without permission is generally a criminal offense.