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any plant of the family Cactaceae, a large group of succulents found almost entirely in the New World. A cactus plant is conspicuous for its fleshy green stem, which performs the functions of leaves (commonly insignificant or absent), and for the spines (not always
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a genus of treelike, shrubby, or—less commonly—spreading plants of the family Cactaceae. The plants range from 1.7 to 20 m in height and from 7 to 40 cm in diameter. The stems usually have large ribs bearing clusters of spines that reach 20 cm in length. The large, funnel-shaped flowers are solitary and nocturnal; their coloration is white or, less commonly, pink or red. The floral tube is long and bears numerous scales. After flowering, the perianth falls off but the style remains on the ovary for a long time. The fruits—red or yellow berries—are edible in some species.
Cereus was one of the first cacti known to Europeans; it is depicted in Tabernaemontanus’ herbarium of 1588. As a result of the latest research, the genus has been reclassified as several different genera. There are about 40 species, distributed in the Greater and Lesser Antilles and in Central and South America. The cacti grow in savannas, along sandy seacoasts, along the edges of forests, and in rocky deserts. A number of ridged and craggy forms are known. The plants are cultivated as ornamentals, and, in their native habitats, their wood is used as fuel. C. peruvianus f. monstrosus is raised as a houseplant. Cereus is propagated by seeds and cuttings.
R. A. UDALOVA