Often associated with deserts, cacti are common and quite diverse in tropical and subtropical areas. This includes the Everglades. Native species to the Everglades thrive with abundant rainfall but require a sunny well-drained site as they can only handle wet conditions for a short period of time. Cacti are tolerant of sandy, alkaline soils and are well adapted to the rocky locations that are common in the Everglades.
Several of the cacti native to Florida are now listed on the endangered list. Simpson’s apple cactus is on this list. In Miami Dade and Monroe counties as well as the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park it is endemic. It’s largely white, fragrant, night-blooming flowers and prickly fruit identify it and is called the “Queen of the Night” since only opens at night. Closing at dawn, the flower will appear pinkish on the outside. With its sweet fragrance, bats, moths, and other night-flying insects pollinate the flowers.
Likewise, the mistletoe cactus is also on the endangered list and hasn’t been seen in the park since 2005. Last known plant was destroyed by hurricane Wilma.
The prickly-pear cactus is still growing in the park and is easily recognized by its fleshy green pads with large yellow to orange to red cup-shaped flowers. The reddish-purple pare shape fruits are called tunas. The prickly pears bloom during the spring and summer for several weeks but the flower only lasts for one day. The Erect variety is found only in Florida and the tropics.
The long narrow columnar dildo or triangle cactus is found within the United States and is native to south Florida and to the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Outside of the United States, you will find it throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and northern South America. It can grow as high as 23 feet. While in bloom, its large white flowers open from midnight until dawn. When the cacti finished blooming, it produces shiny red fruits about two inches long.