Welcome to the Cactus Patch Trail at Tonto National Monument! Cacti are a common, but fascinating part of the Sonoran Desert. These succulent or fleshy, water conserving plants are friend or foe. The Salado collected parts of these plants for food and materials. Birds, insects and mammals continue to rely on the cactus for food and shelter. On the less helpful side, unfortunate hikers and animals also collect parts of the cactus -- the spiny parts.
Not all spiny plants are cacti. Cacti are identified by the spines clustered in areoles on fleshy usually leafless stems. In some cacti, these small pits or cavities are scattered on pads and joints. In others, they follow the length of the rib in an orderly manner. Flower characteristics further identify members of the cactus family. Two of the plants on the cactus patch trail are not cacti. Can you figure out which two?