The flowers that emerge on various cacti in the deserts of the United States do wonders in dispelling the idea of these biomes being dull and lifeless places. The flowers of the assortment of cactus species develop at different times, into an array of shapes and colors and grow in some diverse locations on the plant itself. These blooms can add beauty to the landscape, providing splashes of color before turning into the fruit that contains the seeds.
The flowers of desert cacti can emerge on the top of the plant in a circular pattern, as those of the barrel cactus do, or they can develop elsewhere. The flowers of the Christmas cactus, for instance, come out all along the stems, while those of the prickly pear will emerge along the edges of the flattened pads that compose the plant. The Desert USA website notes that very often, the buds of cactus flowers will appear on the part of the cactus that faces southeast.
Cactus flowers have a wide range of colors, depending upon the species. These colors help to attract birds and insects to the cactus for the purpose of pollination. The color of the organ pipe cactus flower features a lavender/white mix; the Senita cactus has a combination of yellows, pinks, whites and reds in its flowers. Cacti like the prickly pear, which occurs in multiple species, have some distinct differences in their flower colors between the varied types. For instance, the flowers of the bearded prickly pear of the Chihuahuan Desert possess a cream color, but those of the brown-spined prickly pear are yellow and red.
Flowers range in size in the desert cacti. The chain fruit cholla has a flower composed of five to eight petals that is barely an inch in length. The beavertail cactus features a blossom of many petals that can be as wide as 3 inches, the same size as that of the gigantic Saguaro cactus's flowers.
The desert can have a number of cacti in bloom at the same time, with each species typically coming into flower at a specific time of year. The flowers of the fishhook cactus develop as early as April and bloom through May. The claret cup cactus blooms from April through June, with the individual flowers lasting from just three to five days. By planting an assortment of cactus species, you can have some in bloom during different months of the year.
Many cactus flowers open at night, during the cooler part of the 24-hour cycle in the desert. For this reason, these species, such as the Saguaro, will have a flower that is a light color, such as white. These colors serve to reflect any available light and allow pollinating creatures such as bats and moths to find the flower. Night-blooming cactus flowers tend to be fragrant, with the aroma also allowing creatures to hone in on the blossoms.