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What is Pereskia?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul

Pereskia is a genus of cacti that includes about 25 different species. Cacti of this genus have a distinctive appearance and don’t have some of the characteristics associated with other cactus plants, such as a thick stem. Some species actually resemble flowering plants more than cacti. The plants are natively found in regions of Central America, but have spread to the North and South. Most species don’t grow to more than a few feet in height (less than a meter), but some, especially climbing species, can be much larger than this.

The main differences between Pereskia plants and other types of cacti is the lack of a thick stem and an increased number of leaves. This is why the genus is sometimes referred to as Leaf Cacti. Other common names for the genus include Lemon Vines and Rose Cacti. The true name, Pereskia, comes from the botanist who discovered the genus, Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Leaves of Pereskia are usually large and bright green. This is in contrast to other types of cacti, which usually have duller leaves. All species in the genus are deciduous and can be classified as either small trees or shrubs. Pereskia plants are considered to be amongst the most primitive cacti in the world.

Typically, Pereskia plants grow in dry areas that have a tropical climate. Some of the plants are able to withstand a frost, but many require warm winters. In order to survive, the cacti must live in an area that has an extended dry period of at least several months per year. Although the plants require a large amount of sunshine, they usually only grow best in places where they are shaded for at least part of the day.

Plants of the genus are found all over Central America, and are populous in countries such as Columbia and Mexico. There are some species that have spread to the US. Most of the plants grow best in forests, as this provides a certain level of shade, but some can also be found in shrub land.

A common example is the Pereskia grandiflora, a species that’s sometimes known as the Rose Cactus. This particular species has large, pink flowers that give it a similar appearance to a rose plant, despite being a cactus. This plant can grow to around 20 feet (6 meters). Like other Pereskia plants, the Rose Cactus is deciduous and is natively found in Mexico and regions of Brazil.

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      Woman with a flower