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8 Types of Cacti in Florida (With Pictures)

Mother of Hundreds Cactus_moorathenight_Shutterstock

Florida is full of surprises. From the Everglades to its magnificent beaches, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Sunshine State, but one of its more unique and unexpected sides is its incredible array of native cacti.

The tropical cacti of Florida are known for their distinctive shapes, magnificent blooms, and impressive fruit. You can find these year-round delights growing in various habitats across the state, with many acting as excellent ornamental plants in indoor and outdoor gardens. Discover the splendor of Florida flora as we explore eight types of cacti native to its landscape.

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The 8 Types of Cacti in Florida

1. Devil’s Tongue

Devil’s Tongue Cactus
Image Credit: Angie Ip, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Opuntia humifusa
Height: 6–12 inches

Although the prickly pear barely grows more than a foot tall at maturity, it expands in clumps up to 3 feet wide. The cactus consists of fleshy green pads, often with a purplish undertone. It grows numerous barbed hairs called glochids from the areoles dotting each segment. In early summer, gorgeous yellow flowers bloom along the edges of the pads, followed by edible (though not too sweet) fruit in the fall.

2. Barbed-Wire Cactus

Barbed-Wire Cactus
Image Credit: Young Swee Ming, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Acanthocereus tetragonus
Height: 16 feet

Night-blooming flowers grow in the summer, consisting of stunning 8-inch-wide blooms with slender white petals. Sweet red fruits about 3 inches long arrive later in the season. Although the full-grown barbed-wire cactus may be too much for your space, a miniature form, the “fairy castle” cactus, is a lovely indoor specimen.

3. Mistletoe Cactus

MIstletoe Cactus
Image Credit: Yulia_B, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Rhipsalis baccifera
Height: 6 feet

Mistletoe cactus grows naturally along trees and rocks. It cascades as it grows, making it perfect for hanging in a window. The areoles lining the stems are almost impossible to see but will eventually grow tiny white flowers. White berries, resembling those of mistletoe, follow soon after.

4. Erect Prickly Pear

Erect Prickly Pear
Image Credit: MonikaP, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Opuntia stricta
Height: 3–6 feet

Like other prickly pears, the erect variety develops fleshy pads dotted with clumps of tiny bristles. It can grow up to 6 feet tall. The bright yellow, cup-shaped flowers that arrive in early summer are about 4 inches in diameter.

5. Aboriginal Prickly Apple

Aboriginal Prickly Apple cactus
Image Credit: SKY Stock, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Harrisia aboriginum
Height: 20 feet

The large night-blooming flowers of summer feature long, spear-like white petals. Plump red or yellow fruit about 2 inches in diameter is a fall highlight, which is a delicious crop similar to dragon fruit.

6. Semaphore Cactus

Semaphore Cactus
Image Credit: COULANGES, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Consolea corallicola
Height: 6–10 feet

The semaphore cactus’s flat, elongated stem segments can grow up to 16 inches long. The pads and stems develop long pinkish spines. Though they rarely fruit, the flowers on the semaphore cactus grow attractive red inner tepals against fleshy outer tepals. Growing only about 1–2 inches long, the bright blooms are a delicate highlight against the green stems.

7. Cockspur Prickly Pear

Cockspur Prickly Pear
Image Credit: Gewoon, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Opuntia drummondii
Height: 6 inches

Though they’re not pleasant to touch, cockspur prickly pears develop attractive white and yellow flowers about 3 inches wide in late spring to early summer. The bright red fruit that begins growing in August can be eaten raw or incorporated in jams and baked foods.

8. Fragrant Prickly Apple

Fragrant Prickly Apple
Image Credit: Lazy Malik, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Harrisia fragrans
Height: 3–16 feet

The fragrant night-blooming flowers are gorgeous, growing up to 8 inches long in a tubular shape. The fall fruits are also beautiful. They emerge like red balloons from the areoles, maturing to roughly 2-3 inches wide and growing contrasting white strands.

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Final Thoughts

It only makes sense that America’s paradise is home to its most beautiful natural wonders. Though few, the cacti native to Florida are some of the most spectacular plants you’ll find across the U.S. and beyond. Explore the depths of the state’s inner jungle on your next vacation, and see what surprises these magnificent specimens have in store!

Featured Image Credit: moorathenight, Shutterstock


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