Which succulents are not cacti?

Last Updated on November 4, 2021 by Kravelv

Do you know the differences between genuine succulents and cactus plants? Succulents and cactus both grow in a dry climate, and they do not need much water to survive. 

From these facts, most people think that they are related or the same. Not at all! They might have many common characteristics. But the two are different species. Let us know more about them and understand the differences between them.

What are succulents?

To be precise, no such scientific term as ‘succulent’ exists. There are no separate species of ‘succulent’ family on the phylogenetic tree. The succulents are those types of plants that have the ability to store water in their leaves, stems, and roots. 

The characteristics are not grouped into any particular family of plants. The succulents are always packed with moisture and coolness as they store a good quantity of water inside them.

So, they can survive without being watered in the scorching heat of the sun. There are 60 different plant families having succulent properties. For example, Aloe, Haeworthia, Sedum, Sempervivum, etc.

What are cacti? 

A cactus belongs to the ‘Cactacaea’ plant family. The family comprises about 127 genera with about 1750 known species of the order Caryophyllales. In simple words, cacti are a sub-category of succulent plants. That is, all cacti are succulent plants. 

Different species of cacti have different shapes. They range from tall to thin and short to round. Cactus plantation is well known in horticulture. People of dry places cultivate cactus. Also, they are known as xerophyte plants. 

Another definite characteristic of cacti is their sharp-pointed spines. For example, Cephalocereus, Ferocactus Pilosus, Rebutia, Ferocactus Echidne, etc.

How can you distinguish a cactus and a normal succulent?

You might have read earlier that people make a mistake by thinking that succulents and cacti are the same thing. But, they are not the same. 

They are related through some properties. But they have many differences which distinguish them from each other. Now, we will know about the distinguishing features of cactus vs succulent.

  • Cacti have areoles, but succulents don’t

The most important physical difference is that the cacti have round indentations along their stems. They are modified stems, commonly known as ‘areoles.’ The areoles are cushion-like mounds of flesh where hair, leaves, flowers, and more growth.

  • Succulents have leaves, but cacti don’t

Xerophytes like Cactus plants do not have leaves. But succulents have leaves, and they store water in their leaves. Cactus don’t need leaves because it has areoles that serve the purpose of leaves.

  • Cacti have spines, but succulents don’t

Another form of physical properties can distinguish cactus. It is the spines or thorns. Also, succulents do not have sharp and pointed spines. The source of the spines is areoles. These spines also protect the body of the cactus from the sun and keep the inside of the plant cool.

  • Succulents can be distinguished by their appearance

People can easily pick succulents by identifying them by their appearances. They store water in their foliage and keep themselves strong to survive climatic challenges. The height of succulent plants varies from tiny size to 50 feet tall.

  • Most succulents are edible, but cacti are not

Cacti are not edible plants. There are a few succulents that have varieties that are edible. Tasty and nutritious leaves are often used to make a salad. Even some people drink juice from aloe vera.  But cacti do not have any edible parts on their body.


Though cacti are considered as a family member of succulents, some botanists doubt that. Some botanists deny cacti to be succulent, and some botanists accepted the fact. According to the above-mentioned details, we can say all cacti are succulents, but all succulents are not cacti. We can easily differentiate between cacti and normal succulents.

Kravelv is a full time digital marketer and part time furniture and cabinet maker. During his free time he would like to create something out of recycled woods, this varies from toys, furnitures plant boxes etc. Follow him on Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook