When we use the phrase, "cacti and succulents," it's a bit of a misnomer. The phrase seems to imply that we're talking about two distinct groups on a roughly equal footing, as when we say, for example, "music and literature."
But all cacti are, in fact, considered to be succulents. That is, succulents are the overarching category; cacti are a sub-group of that category. And that's the most salient difference between cacti and succulents. So why does popular convention persist in using the misleading phrase "cacti and succulents?"
I suppose it's attributable, in part, to the fame of cacti (the bigger ones, at least). Westerns turned cacti into iconic figures. The cacti then became so big for their breeches that they demanded equal billing with the plant category to which they belong. Maybe it also has something to do with the diversity of the succulent category. Somehow, it doesn't seem right that the lone word "succulents" should cover a whole group of plants ranging from the tiny "living stone" (genus Lithops) to the giant saguaro.
View my pictures of cacti and succulents (including those in the Agave family) to determine if any of these extraordinary plants might prove useful to you as:
- Plants for use in sunny, dry areas
- Subjects for your terrarium
- Or simply as relief from the bleakness of winter!
View photo gallery: Cacti and Succulents