A number of adaptations make cacti suited to desert life. Shallow root systems allow cacti to quickly absorb water for storage. Waxy coatings prevent water loss, as do stomata that close during the day.
There are several adaptations that cacti have to adapt to dry environments. Cacti never lose their leaves completely, they have only reduced the size so that they reduce the surface area through which water can be lost by transpiration. Cacti also have developed spines which allow less water to evaporate through transpiration by shading the plant, and defend the cactus against water – seeking animals.
Cacti have adapted to the dry life and are able to store water and go long periods of time in drought conditions. They are also tolerant of winds and little protection. They thrive in a lot of sunlight.
However, some cacti do live in colder, wetter areas. Opuntia can be found in southern Wisconsin and survive the harsh winters under the snow.
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