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Cacti and Succulents

Trichocereus cacti in flower, torch cacti (Jack Kelly / UA Cooperative Extension)

Agaves, aloes, cacti and yuccas are classified as succulents - plants that have highly specialized anatomical features such as thick waxy cuticles, fleshy or minimal leaves, modified leaves (spines), and roots with extra storage capabilities for food and water. These modifications allow them to survive and thrive in harsh desert environments. They survive long periods of drought in areas of sparse rainfall and intense heat. During stressful periods many succulents cease to grow. They also have a special mechanism to fix carbon from the atmosphere and turn it into carbohydrates while we are sleeping at night.