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Most cacti live in habitats subject to at least some drought. Many live in extremely dry environments, even being found in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. Cacti show many adaptations to conserve water.
Almost all cacti are succulents, meaning they have thickened, fleshy parts adapted to store water.
Unlike many other succulents, the stem is the only part of most cacti where this vital process takes place.
Most species of cacti have lost true leaves, retaining only spines, which are highly modified leaves. Spines prevent water loss by reducing air flow and providing shade.
A member of the plant family Cactaceae, a family comprising about 127 genera with some 1750 known species. The word "cactus" derives from Ancient Greece, originally used for a spiny plant whose identity is not certain.