What Animals Eat the Old Man Cactus?

What Animals Eat the Old Man Cactus?

Its common name is actually Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis) because its shaggy coat of long, white hairs suggests an old man’s unkempt mane. The genus name Cephalocereus is derived from the Greek kephale (head) and the Latin cereus (wax taper, candle). The species name senilis is Latin for old man.

The hairs are modified spines that protect the plant from cold temperatures and the sun. But be careful: They also hide sharp yellow spines underneath.

A tall, columnar succulent in the cactus family called Old Man Cactus has spines that resemble fine white hairs, giving it the appearance of an old man. It is indigenous to Northeastern Mexico, but finding it in its natural habitat is becoming more difficult. However, broad dissemination and appeal in cultivation should lessen the strain on wild populations. The clusters of stems on the Old Man Cactus can reach heights of 16 to 50 feet.

Cephalocereus senilis

Form: Cactus, columnar
Seasonality: Perennial
Size: 45 feet (slow)

Common Name(s):

Leaves; n/a

Flowers: 2-inch long pale pink flowers
Fruit: Deep pink fruit, 1 inch long covered with yellowish hair.
Stems/Trunks: Numerous yellow spines concealed by the long, shade producing hair 

Range/Origin: Hidalgo Mexico
Hardiness: Sunset Zones: 11-13, 21-24; USDA: 9-10

Comments: Low litter, Long flowing “hair” covering the thorns


  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Water: Low
  • Soil: Sandy, well-drained
  • Propagation: Seed and cuttings
  • Maintenance: Minimal, however, yellowing hair can be rinsed with a mild shampoo

Flower Color: Gold/YellowRed/Burgundy/White

Flower Inflorescence: Solitary

Flower Value To Gardener: Showy

Flower Shape: Funnel

Flower Size:1-3 inches

Flower Description: Flowers are nocturnal and may not appear until the cactus has reached 10 to 20 years old. solitary and grow one by one. Funnel-shaped, including the ovary, 2 to 3 1/2 inches long, 3 inches in diameter, yellowish pink to rose-colored.


Fruit Color: Black

Fruit Description: The fruit usually is obovoid.

Camel Eats Old Man Cactus

Which animal consumes cacti without having its mouth pierced? The camel is the mammal that consumes cacti without piercing its mouth. Because of a unique mouth anatomy and robust conical “meat thorns” that cover it, camels do not need to spit thorns in order to eat cactus. The camel does not feel prickly when eating cactus because of the thick skin on its mouth, tongue, and esophagus, as well as the ability of its stomach juice to break down the spikes.

The surface of the tongue is quite rough, and the inside epidermis of the camel’s mouth is extremely thick and robust. The camel’s mouth has a few keratinized papillae. These papillae assist the camel chew its food in the same direction while also preventing scratches or scrapes to the mouth when eating cactus.

A camel will attempt to swallow the entire cactus rather than chewing it thoroughly. The camel will produce a lot of saliva as it is eating, and when the meal is being digested, the stomach will also produce a lot of gastric acids.

As a result, when the camel consumes the cactus, it won’t be harmed by the thorns and will still be able to digest and absorb nutrients.

It must be said that the mouth of these desert animals is equipped with keratinized papillae which strengthen the mouth against external aggressions, such as thorns. Some other animals naturally have this protein (like the rhinoceros) which allows them to eat branches without hurting themselves.

Land Turtles

We already knew that sea turtles eat jellyfish, but these land turtles consume cactus. Absolutely nothing terrifies these incredible animals. Even though amateur breeders frequently feed them thornless cactus, it would appear that the presence of thorns on these plants does not disturb them.

Therefore, in the natural, turtles consume cacti gradually (it goes without saying). It should be noted that adult cacti frequently have lower leaves that are less thorny than the young branches. You can feed opuntia to turtles in your gardens; you’ll see that they adore it.


Once again in the Galapagos Islands, some visitors have observed large iguanas feeding on cacti. these animals have a well-honed digestive system that allows them to digest thorns

The Pecari

A peccary is a medium-sized, hoofed mammal resembling a pig in the family Tayassuidae (New World pigs). They are found throughout Central and South America and the southwestern region of North America. These little wild pigs don’t seem to mind the thorns and even use them to scratch themselves.


Most cacti are edible to people. There are numerous cactus species, some of which are relatively simple to cook. For instance, cooked nopal is a favorite food of Mexicans. The UN has even taken notice of this herb because it could help end world hunger.


What Animal Is Eating My Cactus?

It’s not uncommon to find your cactus plant missing a few needles, but the real problem started when the plants started disappearing altogether. At first, it was just a few of the smaller ones that disappeared overnight, but after a while, they started disappearing more frequently. It was time to get to the bottom of this mystery.

I began by looking into what animals would be interested in eating prickly cactus. I found out that there are several different rodents that would see cactus as a delicacy: rats, gophers, and ground squirrels. All are willing to brave the formidable spines if it means getting to the sweet nectar beneath. I discovered quickly that it wasn’t any of these rodents alone who were responsible for my missing spiny succulents—it was all of them together!

Drought can make plants like cactus much more attractive to water-seeking animals like gophers, rats, and ground squirrels. When there’s less water available in their natural habitat, these thirsty critters will go to greater lengths to find a source, including risking tearing up their faces on sharp spines.

What Animal Eats Cactus in the Sahara Desert?

Camels can eat cactus. Their mouths are lined with what is referred to as Papillae.

What Animal Eats Prickly Pear Cactus?

Critical players in animal communities include prickly pears. Tortoises, iguanas, rabbits, deer, peccaries, and numerous species of birds all eat different sections of prickly pears. Numerous rodent species, reptiles, and birds, notably cactus wrens, find shelter there.







Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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