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Horticult's Comprehensive
Guide to Rhipsalis

Welcome to the engaging & diverse world of Rhipsalis, a group of cacti that breaks the mold with its preference for rainforest habitats over arid environments. This giude is your gateway to understanding these fascinating plants, known. for their varied & often striking appearances.

In the following infographics, we'll delve into the specifics of Rhipsalis - from identifying different species to understanding their natural habitats & care requirements. You'll gain practical insights into how these plants can be integrated into your home, bringing a touch of the tropical without the complexity.

This guide is designed for anyone interested in houseplants, from experienced gardeners to those just starting out. we aim to provide you with the essential information to successfully care for and appreciate the beauty of Rhipsalis. Let's step into the world of these unique cacti & explore how they can enhance your indoor gardening experience.


Introduction to Rhipsalis: Beyond the Desert

Section No. 1: Redefining Succulents

Section No./


The Evolutionary Journey of Rhipsalis

Introduction to Rhipsalis: Beyond the Desert


Rhipsalis' Ascent & Adaptation

Introduction to Rhipsalis: Beyond the Desert


Rhipsalis: Mastering the Canopy Life

Introduction to Rhipsalis: Beyond the Desert

Introduction to Rhipsalis: Beyond the Desert

The Evolutionary Journey of Rhipsalis

Rhipsalis in the Canopy: Ascent & Adaptation

Rhipsalis: Mastering the Canopy Life

Our Rhipsalis Guide kicks off with an in-depth look at the plant's origin and evolutionary history, followed by a wealth of resources including educational articles, care instructions, and tracking tools for enthusiasts. As the Rhipsalis mystery unfolds and new insights emerge, we'll be updating our repository with the latest findings.


Stay curious and check back often to see what new Rhipsalis secrets we've uncovered!

There are two basic types of succulents ⟢ 

Jungle Succulents

Thrive in the moist, shaded conditions of tropical rainforests.

Opuntia cactus to show what a desert cactus looks like.

Adapted to dry, arid environments. They have thick, fleshy leaves for water storage.

Desert Succulents


When we think of succulents, we often picture plants thriving in arid deserts, requiring minimal water & care. However, not all succulents fit this description.

desert cactus in bloom

Let's explore the diversity within the succulent world. 

desert environment


The Rhipsalis Paradox

The evolution of thick leaves in desert succulents is a direct response to their arid surroundings, a fact that is implicit in their very definition.

It retains the same succulent attributes of its desert relatives in 

the rainforest -

a world known for its consistent moisture and abundant rainfall.

Notebook page with desert succulent adaptations

How do these water-wise adaptations serve Rhipsalis among the lush canopies where moisture is ample?

The story is a fascinating tale of evolutionary ingenuity.

These specialized leaves,

are an adaptation designed to conserve water in the challenging, dry conditions of desert habitats.

a side by side of pictures of the rainforest jungle & of a desert to show how different these two environments are.

among others

Rhipsalis, on the other hand, is a

& as such presents a curious contrast.


So, why does Rhipsalis maintain succulent leaves in a water-abundant environment?

Let's investigate ⟢

Rhipsalis began its life cycle rooted in the forest soil, much like any other ground-dwelling plant.

DALL·E 2023-12-28 12.50.01 - Illustrate a ground-dwelling Rhipsalis plant with very long,

This image is an AI-generated graphic representing our vision of what Rhipsalis might have looked like when it grew on the forest floor, prior to adapting to life in the trees.

In these early days, despite being surrounded by plenty of water & nutrients,

the plant faced a significant challenge that would shape its future ...

the struggle for sunlight in an environment overshadowed by a dense canopy.

To solve this problem, Rhipsalis made a big change. It became an epiphyte, which means it started living up in the trees instead of on the ground. This move was like finding a front-row seat in a crowded room, getting Rhipsalis closer to the sunlight it was missing on the forest floor.

Graphics for website_edited.png
A picture of te jungle floor in a Polaroid frame. We wrote the caption, "8/23 1:30PM Barely any sun peaking through canopy overhead," in a handwriting font to convey the fact that the rainforest floor does not get much sunlight due thick trees overhead in a creative way.

But living up in the trees came with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest was getting enough water. Even though the rainforest is a very wet place, being up in the air away from the soil meant retrieving water was harder to come by.

To better understand how Rhipsalis evolved to deal with this challenge, we must first explore it's environment.

Let's switch gears for a minute & talk about the rainforest  

The rainforest is divided into four primary layers: emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor. Each level plays a critical role in the rainforest ecosystem, creating a delicate balance that sustains an incredible diversity of plant and animal life. As we delve into these layers, we uncover the intricate interactions and adaptations that define this vibrant and essential biome.

An illustrative graphic depicting the four layers of a rainforest ecosystem: the emergent layer with the tallest trees reaching high into the sky, the dense canopy layer filled with the crowns of many trees, the understory layer featuring shorter plants and young trees under the canopy, and the forest floor covered with ferns and other low-lying plants.

From what we've gathered, the time period that Rhipsalis began to evolve and acquire it's extraordinary epiphytic traits could be sometime between when the Cactaceae family started diversifying - around 30-35 million years ago - and before or around the time before the final breakup of Gondwana, which was completed around 100-80 million years ago.

When Did Rhipsalis Evolve into an Epiphyte? 

Explore Our Hypothesis

When Did Rhipsalis Evolve into an Epiphyte?
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