The Junior site of the British Cacti and Succulent Society    BCSS main site

Notes for Keystage 2 teachers

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Succulent plants make an interesting study for plant diversity and habitats. Here are plants that are water challenged. They have evolved to survive seasonal droughts by storing water in their leaves, stems and roots. The habitats are severe; often very hot in summer, sometimes extremely cold in winter.


Buy succulent plants from a garden centre or specialist grower. Cacti are generally stem succulents, any small leaves will quickly wither and die. Other succulents are mostly leaf succulents. Cacti can be distinguished from the other succulents by having areoles – the fuzzy cushion is a growing point that produces spines, new branches and flowers.

Cacti with their fierce spines have a special fascination for Keystage 2 children. Studies with hand held lenses provide detailed insights to the protective armour of spines.

You may also be able to borrow mature plants from a local branch of the BCSS (The British Cactus and Succulent Society), contact your local branch secretary (see the BCSS website for details of branch locations.

There is some information on how cacti are adapted to dry, hot environments and also on areoles at What makes cacti special on this site.

Lithops (stoneplants) from South Africa have evolved to resemble the rocks and soils of the desert and hopefully are not eaten by grazing animals or collected by people. Each head is two succulent leaves that store water through the seasonal winter drought of South Africa.

If you purchase plants one can be cut across and the water storing cells can be easily seen with a lens. (Lithops are quite safe to handle as is the juice inside.)

There is more information on Lithops on this site.

These rare plants can be grown from seed. In the UK, you can apply for free seeds and growing instructions from the Northampton and Milton Keynes Branch of the British Cactus and Succulent Society. Please email Trev at