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Why do cacti hold a lot of water and have spines?
It's usually thought that cacti hold water to tide them over in dry periods, but this cannot be the main reason, as they do not shrink much in extended dry periods or swell much when an occasional downpour happens. They may have spines to deter browsers, but is this their only purpose? (D998).
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This illustrated report shows that the main reason why cacti hold a lot of water, is that this lets them extract water from the air as dew. Other arid-area plants behave similarly.
Spines on cacti do deter browsing, but also form an important part of the dew-forming mechanisms.
The suggestion is made that 'synthetic cacti' could be useful in self-irrigation, attracting water to nearby real plants.
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This was a really interesting PDF! I had no idea that the spines help with condensation. I was about to ask if people had tried to replicate nature's condenser but you went into it briefly at the end of the PDF. Do you have a link to someone who has created a synthetic cactus?
Asked by benedict on May 17, 2011
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