Difference Between Succulent and Cactus

There are very similar objects or things we see in our surroundings that cannot be easily differentiated by just looking at them. For example, sand and soil are pretty much similar.


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Among them, few plants have similarities that make it quite hard to tell the difference among them.

For example, Succulent and Cactus are similar in many ways, such as both of them can be in other colors except green that includes red, yellow, orange, etc. However, there are differences as well.

Key Takeaways

  1. Succulents store water in their leaves, stems, or roots, while cacti store water in their thick, fleshy stems.
  2. Cacti have spines or thorns, while succulents do not necessarily have them.
  3. All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.

Succulent vs Cactus

The difference between Succulent and Cactus is in terms of the part they used for the photosynthesis process. They are also different in their body structure such as succulent does not have areoles and spine originates from leaves, and they cannot withstand in light exposure, except for these succulents and cactus also different in terms of leaves. They also look slightly different in appearance.

Succulent vs Cactus

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Succulents are plants that are found mostly in hot and dry climates but cannot withstand light exposure. They have normal green leaves like any other plant, and the spine is also originated from it only.

They can survive with less water as it has the capability of storing water in its roots.

Cactus is a plant that has areoles in its body. They are found in hot and deserted areas and tend to need less amount of water as compared to the normal plant.

They don’t have normal leaves like vascular plants and use their stem instead of leaves for the process of photosynthesis. Their spine is also originated from its stem only.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonSucculentCactus
LeavesNormal traditional leavesNo traditional leaves
SpinesOriginated from leavesOriginated from areoles
Photosynthetic partLeavesStem
Light exposureUnable to withstand prolonged light exposureRequire light exposure to grow.

What is Succulent?

The word succulent is a Latin word and represents the type of leaves the plant has. Its leave provided nourishment to the plant, and therefore, proper watering is not required.

This is also a reason they are found mostly in humid and dry regions. Spines present on its leaves hold the water for a period.

Succulent have families of around 60. Several succulent plants can be grown.

They can be of more than one color, such as plink, blue, yellow, red, etc. they are easy to grow and do not require much attention. Most of its types do not have any issue with pests.

They can survive both hot and cold climates, making them an ideal choice for the plantation. They sometimes change their color when exposed to light.

They have several characteristics, as they tend to shrink if there is drought and swell in proper precipitation. It performs photosynthesis at night to reduce water loss.

They absorb the carbon dioxide in the morning.

Their leaves get burn in extreme or direct light exposure. They should be planted in a vessel that gives them drainage and aeration.

They should not be given extra water as this can lead to their death. They belong to the category of ornamental plants.

Sometimes they are also used for making or designing jewelry pieces sure to their unique features.


What is Cactus?

The Cactus plant is also called the desert plant as it is mostly found in that area, it has a unique and mind-blowing capacity to absorb the water from deep earth with the help of its roots, and they can also store it.

Cactus only opens their stomata at night so that minimum water is lost during the process of photosynthesis. Instead of green leaves, they have green spines that perform this process at night.

Desert has herbivores animals that eat plants, and needles on the stem of the cactus protect it from getting eaten as these needles are very sharp and can pierce the skin.

A cactus plant has a very long life that can go up to 100 years also. They do not require extra water as it may lead to root decay.

Cactus should not be exposed to excess light as it can cause damage to the plant 4 to 5 hours are enough for its growth.

Soil that causes drainage fast is the most ideal for the cactus plants. They can take a long period than usual plants for growing.

They are not always green but can be of other colors too, such as pink, red, yellow, blue, etc. well it is mostly found in the desert, but that does not imply they cannot be found anywhere else.

They can be found in the mountains too.


Main Differences Between Succulent and Cactus

  1. Succulent does not have areoles in them, whereas Cactus, on the other have areoles in their body.
  2. Normal green, also called traditional leaves, are present in Succulents. They look like normal plant leaves, whereas cactus does not have traditional leaves generally, but some rare types have normal leaves.
  3. Both of them are also different in terms of the origination of the spine. In Succulent, it is originated from the leaf cuticle directly, whereas, in the case of cactus, it is originated from areoles, a special structure present on cactus.
  4. Both of them also have different participation in the photosynthesis process. It is the primary function in Succulent, whereas cactus perform this process solely. Succulent uses leave for the process, while cactus uses stem for performing the process of photosynthesis.
  5. Last but not least, they also have differences in terms of light exposure. Succulent cannot survive direct light exposure, whereas cactus can survive it. In fact, it needs 4 to 5 hours of light exposure for proper development.
Difference Between Succulent and Cactus
  1. https://academic.oup.com/aob/article-abstract/102/6/1019/105780
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140196305001953
  3. https://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8379.short
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