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How to Identify Flowering Cactus Plants

By Brandy Alexander ; Updated September 21, 2017
A prickly pear cactus in bloom.

A cactus plant is part of the succulent family and grows in various forms, including a shrub, tree or vine. Cacti in the late spring and summer months produce some of the most vibrant flowers. No matter where these plants appear, such as California or Texas, distinctive blossoms may adorn these succulents and help you pinpoint the specific variety. By taking note of key characteristics and using an online resource, identify the flowering cactus plants that you encounter.

Note the month and time of the day that you see the flowering cactus. Some cacti, such as Saguaro, bloom during the months of May and June, while the Night-Blooming Cereus only flowers one summer night each year.

Look at the shape of the cactus where the blossoms are found. For example, the Barrel Cactus bears bright yellow flowers on its cylindrically shaped form, and the Beavertail Cactus produces vibrant reddish-purple blossoms on its flattened stems.

Record the location to help you narrow down the possibilities for this flowering succulent. For instance, the Golden Snake Cactus is native to just California, while the Staghorn Cholla is found in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Inspect the colors of the flowers on the cacti. Do the blossoms appear as a single yellow, red or purple color like the Prickly Pear, or do the petals have a mix of yellowish-green colors like the Christmas Cactus?

Access the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) "Advanced Search" database page to input your observations (see Resources). Select the "Cactus family" title in the "Family Common Name" section and then follow the prompts to choose options, such as location, that apply to your findings. Click the "Display Results" button at the bottom of the page and then click the links on the resulting page to identify your flowering cactus plant.

 

About the Author

 

Brandy Alexander has been writing professionally since 2001. She is a glass artist with a Web design and technical writing background. Alexander runs her own art-glass business and has been a contributor to "Glass Line Magazine" as well as various online publications.