How Does a Cactus Reproduce?

Corey Leopold/CC-BY 2.0

The cactus is a plant that flowers, and the blooms generate fruit that bears seeds; it is the seeds that end up leading to new cactus plants. Bats provide the pollination for some species of cactus, and the flowers bloom in the spring each year. It is also possible to grow a cactus from broken fragments of an existing cactus, but the new plant is genetically identical.

The fact that cactuses need to attract bats (or bees or birds, in some cases) to provide pollination led them to develop several floral traits that attract pollinating species. Once pollination has taken place, the fruits that cactuses produce show considerable variety. Some are very dry, while others are quite fleshy, and they all have a lot of seeds. Birds disperse the seeds found in fruits that taste sweet and show a lot of color; the birds consume the fruit, and the seeds pass through the birds’ digestive systems, ending up on the ground in the bird droppings. Some cactus fruit falls on the ground, where members of other species consume the fruit. Ants even disperse seeds for some species. Fruits that are drier and have spines end up sticking to mammal fur or travel with the wind in order to disperse the seeds inside.