The image conjured by the cactus is a plant covered in thorns that grows in the desert. And it is true; cactus species are adapted to survive in situations of extreme dryness, though this trait is not enough to ensure they will survive in the modern world.
On the Internet, information about cacti appears in relation with "succulent plants", which encompass a wider variety of species adapted to scarcity of water. The cactus is indeed a succulent, though it has its own family, the cactaceae, which according to the Cactusland portal, covers approximately 2,500 species.
Succulents, meanwhile, are much broader, with 30 families and some 10,000 species, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN). This international group has proposed an action plan for preventing the environmental depredation that endangers some 2,000 species within that group.
The main threats are related to loss of habitat. But another important danger is the illegal trafficking in rare and attractive cactus species, which is feeding a global market.
Many individuals have made cacti their hobby, growing them and creating special gardens, a growing phenomenon that is apparent in the numerous cactus-related web sites, in which some use the term "cactomania".
These plants possess special characteristics that allow them to better take advantage of and store water. The most obvious are the thorns, adapted leaves that protect the plant from other water-seekers..
While water may not be abundant, Internet sites dedicated to the cactus sure are. There are directories with links to questions and answers about these plants, illustrations, photographs and how-to for cactus gardening, and even recipes