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Anime and Manga
- A brief gag during the Arabasta arc of One Piece had Luffy drink from a cactus, despite the kingdom being more Arabic than American, with near-identical results to the Avatar: The Last Airbender example below. Luckily, Chopper, the team doctor, happened to have a needle full of tranquilizer on him...
- In the Mushroom Samba episode of Cowboy Bebop, the crew runs out of fuel and crash-lands on Europa, the moon of Jupiter. The series often pays homage to its roots, and this part of Europa just so happens to have been terraformed into a desert typical of the American southwest, complete with cacti.
- Averted in Desert Punk: the series is set in an After the End Kanto region of Japan which has been turned into a desert, and thus has no cacti.
- Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu uses the "all deserts are sandy wastelands" variation to portray Nevada, complete with a raging sandstorm.
- In Digimon Adventure, Mimi's crest is found inside the flower topping a gigantic cactus in the middle of a desert. How gigantic is this cactus? It's as tall as a cruise liner is long. In this case, it's justified due to being in the digital world.
- In ElfQuest, cacti provide the Wolfriders with an emergency water supply during their desperate desert journey. Possibly justified because it takes place on an Earthlike planet with almost-identical flora and fauna. Realistically, they pass through both sandy dunes and rocky flats during their journey, and the cacti only grow in the latter.
- Averted in The Adventures of Tintin, which places the characters in Arabian Deserts numerous times with no cacti.
- In one comic, Bamse dug next to a cactus, hoping to find water. He instead found oil, which was spotted by bedouins, who then came to Bamse's aid.
Films — Animated
- Rango, which the film states takes place in the Mojave Desert, has plenty of cacti in the desert around the town of Dirt. While there are in fact plenty of species of cacti that grow natively, the lovingly and accurately rendered saguaro does not.
- Averted in Aladdin. There are no cacti in the Arabian Agrabah desert.
- Both Madagascar and The Jungle Book featured cacti growing in jungles. On the other hand, the only cactus native to the Old World, the epiphytic Mistletoe Cactus, is found in rainforests of Africa and Madagascar, having been introduced there via migratory birds.
Films — Live-Action
- In the silent film The King of Kings, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Jesus Christ (played by actor H. B. Warner) preaches in the Holy Land while standing next to a beavertail cactus.
- In the 1961 film King of Kings, Jesus Christ (played by actor Jeffrey Hunter), while fasting in the wilderness, breaks open a beavertail cactus leaf and drinks the water inside.
- The film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas pays tribute to Ralph Steadman's original art — which depicted saguaro cacti on the road between Barstow and Las Vegas — by inserting the occasional black cardboard cutout of a saguaro in the background of some of the driving scenes.
- The scene in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure where they visit 19th-century New Mexico prominently features a saguaro in its opening shot. The movie was filmed in the Sonoran Desert, so perhaps this is mostly as example of Arizona Doubling, but even still, they could have built the set away from the saguaro... couldn't they?
- Justified in the film version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Although there are saguaro cacti in the "One More Angel" scene, which is set in Canaan, the song itself has a country-western tone, so the cacti make sense.
- In Robert E. Howard's Red Nails, Conan the Cimmerian and Valeria travel across a "cactus-dotted plain" and spend the night in a ring of cacti for protection while adventuring in prehistoric Africa.
- Justified in Frank Herbert's Dune, cacti are introduced to the desert planet Arrakis as part of a terraforming effort. Though the planet is so arid that initially they can only survive in carefully guarded parts of the mountains (away from the worms) with dew collectors providing them with water.
Live Action TV
- Intentionally used in Monty Python's Flying Circus in "Scott of the Sahara" with cardboard saguaro cacti in the Sahara Desert as produced by a bad moviemaker.
- The Reverend Horton Heat have a song titled "Ain't No Saguaro in Texas", which complains about this trope and tries to inform the listener about what Texas does have.
- In Peanuts, Snoopy's brother Spike is always portrayed sitting under a two-armed saguaro cactus. He actually has a house inside a hollowed-out cactus. Although he lives in Needles, CA, that's too far north for saguaros.
- Crock features cacti prominently in the Sahara.
- One of Big Japan Pro Wrestling's signature Gimmick Matches, The Scorpion Death Match, replaces the barbed wire used in the Piranha Death Match with cacti, for a more desert feel. This ignores that deserts in Japan don't have cacti.
- In the 3.5 Edition Sourcebook, Sandstorm, describes everything about life in a desert environment. Cacti are obviously included, though the world could be based on American deserts. Two of the "monsters" listed in it are the Porcupine cacti (they reproduce by exploding in a burst of pulp, seeds, and thorns at the slightest touch) and the Saguaro sentinels (basically Desert Treants, swapping trees for Cacti).
- In Dark Sun's Pathfinder interpretation, there are cacti... of course, this is Dark Sun, so they try to eat your blood.
- A lot of Shifting Sand Land levels in games have cacti, which sometimes act as enemies or spiky obstacles to damage your health. Pyramids, too.
- Both Age of Empires and Age of Empires II have Arabian, Gobi, and Sahara deserts full of cacti.
- Gobi's Valley in Banjo-Kazooie includes these, despite being ancient Egyptian themed and named after (a camel named after) a desert in Asia.
- In Terranigma, the Gobi desert (which is located in Asia, by the way) is covered in cacti.
- Set in the Mojave, Fallout: New Vegas features agaves, barrel cacti and prickly pears that will constitute 95% of the Courier's diet. No Saguaros, happily.
- Route 111 in Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald includes a desert and is the only place you can find a Cacnea, despite Hoenn being a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Japanese island of Kyushu.
- Route 228 in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, featuring Cacnea's evolved form Cacturne. This despite Sinnoh being based of Hokkaido.
- The Desert Resort in Pokémon Black and White features a new cactus Pokémon, Maractus, though Unova is at least based on someplace in North America, even if it's New York State. Ironically, Maractus actually can't survive in its homeplace, as it has no Ability whatsoever that prevents it from being hit by sandstorms.
- Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga features the Spiky Snifits who look like saguaro cacti. You find them in the desert Teehee Valley. Other Mario games have the cactus enemy Pokey, who appears in almost every desert level (World 2 of Super Mario Bros. 3 is a rare exception; Pokey wasn't in that game). And the interesting thing? The whole cacti "project" started with the desert levels of Super Mario Bros. 2, which was adapted from Doki Doki Panic, a game with an Arabian theme.
- In the original Spyro the Dragon, there were cacti all over the desert levels. Some of them would even shake themselves to get the soot off if you used your flame attack on them. Rather impressively, though, the cacti only show up in levels with an "American" theme within the trilogy. Dry Canyon and Cliff Town are both based on areas ("Colorado" and "Mexico") which might be expected to have cacti, and Dino Mines is the Old West with dinosaurs (and cacti). Skeletos Badlands has cacti as well, but no clear effective location. The two desert levels which do have a clear non-American location (Scorch and Desert Ruins) are cacti-free.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, there are cacti in enemy battles in the desert. These are only one-armed, though.
- The Gerudo Desert in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess is notable for being cactus-free, though Leevers (leech-like creatures) look similar to cacti in the latter game (this also applies to the spinoff Link's Crossbow Training).
- The version of Gerudo Desert from Breath of the Wild has saguaro-style cactuses.
- The Neksdor Kingdom in Miitopia is a desert littered with Egyptian architecture with an Arabian-like backstory. Neither Egypt nor the Middle East naturally have cacti in their deserts and yet the Neksdor Kingdom is filled with them.
- Guild Wars 2 introduces cacti in a very odd manner. Prickly pear cacti appear in the Maguuma Wastes as a harvestable plant. Choya, sentient plant creatures based on cacti, also appear... in Elona, where there are no regular cacti plants.
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards contains a Single-Biome Planet based off of deserts. The first level of this planet is based off of ancient Egypt, yet the background is filled with cacti.
- Tales of Vesperia features a desert where you must deflate cacti with your sorcerer's ring to restock your water supply periodically. Also cactus monsters live in it.
- Golden Sun, despite being set in a fantasy world, has two deserts with cacti in the battle scenery in the first game. The America-equivalent continents don't get explored until the second game, and the deserts on those use battle scenery that doesn't have cacti.
- In Team Buddies, you are sure to find cacti (and possibly pyramids) in all the desert levels.
- The opening stage of Mega Man Zero 2, a desert, had tall mechanical saguaro cacti that fired spikes and round barrel cacti that rolled about and shot bombs. In Zero 3, Glacier le Cactank is an aversion. If you haven't guessed it yet by his name, he's An Ice Person. His territory is a snowy region.
- Far Cry 2 falls prey to this trope, having big Saguaros... in the middle of Africa.
- In Dwarf Fortress, the default data files specify that all desert biomes contain saguaros. Fortunately, the game does recognize 3 different types of deserts (sand deserts, badlands, and rocky wastelands), so the game's data files can be modified to make the situation slightly more realistic.
- RollerCoaster Tycoon had Saguaro cacti available in the scenery window no matter where you go, allowing you to place them in the Arctic if you so choose. But more to the point, an Egypt-themed premade scenario also had some sitting around. Possibly justified in that it's quite literally The Theme Park Version, and a cactus will grow just as well in a fake Egypt as a fake Wild West. Nobody really ever said they were real, live cacti either.
- The setting of Ever Oasis is based on Egypt, but there are plenty of cacti to cut up for materials.
- Averted in Halo 3; an entire mission (one of the game's longest in fact) is set in a desert and features not one cactus. That said, it's an alien desert.
- Also averted in Halo 4, where Requiem's deserts are shown to be cactus-less, probably because Requiem is an artificial world built by ancient aliens.
- No matter where you deploy for UFO recovery in the world in X-COM, as long as you touch down in desert, you will see cacti and pyramids when you disembark from the Skyranger.
- Backyard Football has Cactus Gulch, which has...well...you know.
- Jak 3: Wastelander has cacti spread throughout the Wasteland.
- The first ToeJam & Earl game had sand, mostly in later levels. The sand nearly always came with cacti.
- Played realistically in World of Warcraft, where Durotar is the only desert region in the game with cacti. Silithus and Tanaris are just sand dunes, while the Barrens and Desolace (before the Cataclysm) are more like savannahs. Tanaris does have Thistleshrub Valley in one corner of the zone, which is a large cacti jungle, but that's Truth in Television, as the Real Life section can attest to. Also, Uldum, which is an Egypt analog, doesn't have a single cactus in it's entirity, averting this trope yet again.
- Averted in the Zoo Tycoon games, in which placing cacti in an exhibit with North African, Asian, or Australian desert animals reduces the exhibit's rating for species-appropriateness.
- Bug has is a desert level, and there are saguaro cacti. However, the level is based off the Arizona Desert, so it fits.
- In RuneScape, cacti abound in the very Arabian/Egyptian-themed desert. Cutting them and drinking their water is kinda useful for not dying from the heat, so they could be given a pass.
- Cacti in Minecraft can rarely spawn anywhere on sand, except for desert biomes where they are everywhere.
- Putt-Putt Travels Through Time has cacti in the Old West time period.
- Freddi Fish 4: The Case of the Hogfish Rustlers of Briny Gulch takes place in the Old West, so of course it has loads of cacti.
- In Terraria, all desert biomes (created when there's a large enough concentration of sand) automatically grow cacti.
- Averted in all of the Mount & Blade games. No cacti are seen throughout the desert areas. However, the isometric travel map has very little detail, so there may actually be cacti there, just not visible or in any of the combat environments.
- Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception averts this, with the desert in question being in the Middle East. Sadly for Drake, there isn't any other life either.
- In Super Tux Kart, some deserts have cacti. Coyote Canyon is an add-on racetrack in a rocky desert with saguaro cacti. Coyote Canyon resembles the Grand Canyon in Arizona, though saguaro is not among the cacti at the Grand Canyon. Shifting Sands has no cacti, because it resembles Egypt with pyramids.
- Borderlands 2:
- The game has an unusual variation: Stinging Cacti, which are a bit like if a geneticist spliced Electric Eel genes into a cactus plant. The catch is they only appear in the Arctic sections of the game... which are deserts.
- The regular variety of cacti (called 'Stactus plants' in-game) appear in the regular sand-and-heat deserts of Pandora.
- Cacti are the go-to decoration for any and all deserts in Clonk.
- Half-Life has a few saguaro cacti in the outdoor areas... despite being located in New Mexico. (While New Mexico has cacti, it doesn't have saguaros.)
- Most maps in Carnivores Triassic contain one variation or another of prickly pear and occasionally saguaro, sometimes in surreal color schemes, though they're not very common. Justified in the game taking place on an alien planet, not on prehistoric Earth.
- In The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang, Kalala Desert, as well as the preceding area, Rat Mountain, doesn't just have saguaro cactuses—it has maraca-wielding Dancing Cactuses!
- Starbound has cacti in the desert, but this is perhaps justified because the game takes place IN SPACE!
- Played straight in Westerado, like in the Westerns it was Inspired by....
- Played straight in the desert levels of Nihilumbra.
- Infinite Undiscovery features a pair of Barrel Cactus creatures with the distinctly Mexican names "Amigo" and "Tequilo". Man-sized walking Barrel Cactus. That can shoot needles in multiple directions simultaneously, spew spores when struck by attacks that might paralyze/poison you, and bowl you over with a rolling attack. The former is played straighter by being found in the desert region of the game, while the latter is peculiar by being found in a tropical jungle setting. Which works in its favor, since its coloring gives it a bit of camouflage against the planty surroundings.
- Calico Desert in Stardew Valley not only has cacti (complete with Cactus Fruit you can harvest and sell back in town), but in the same place as palm trees.
- Brave Hero Yuusha: The desert map has cacti and the Racket Cactus monsters.
- The Famicom Platform Game Time Zone has cacti in its Wild West zone. Some of them are anthropomorphic and trying to kill you.
- If there's a desert climate mission in Xcom 2, it will have cacti, even if the mission is set in Sahara.
- In The Elder Scrolls, Hammerfell (as seen in Daggerfall), despite it being otherwise closer to a North African desert, has cacti. Averted in places which are desert-like (the Ashlands of Vvardenfell in Morrowind, for instance,) but don't fit the traditional idea most people have of deserts.
- Despite that Ever Oasis is set in a place that takes a lot more from Egypt than it does America, cacti are a staple crop in the game.
- Wally, of Wally and Osborne, has made snow ones in Antarctica while imitating a cowboy.
- The Order of the Stick has a big, sandy, Sahara-like desert on the Western Continent with camels, giant sandworms and at one instance, a cactus.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show set in a mythological Asian-esque land, Sokka sings "Drink cactus juice, it'll quench ya. Nothing's quenchier" while high on cactus juice. However, the cactus Sokka just drank from turns out to be the only one they ever see along the way.
- Road Runner and Coyote cartoons, obviously. Justified in that they take place in the American Southwest, where cacti are indigenous.
- In American Dad!, the episode Delorean Story shows Stan driving his son on the way to Albuquerque, with nothing but sand and saguaro cacti surrounding the road. In reality, they would have seen a few forests along the way considering at least 5 climate zones exist around Albuquerque.
- Also averted in The Mysterious Cities of Gold, and they actually point out that cacti are full of water when the characters are stranded on the Galapagos islands.
- Justified in The Magic School Bus, because they actually go to an American desert.
- Jimmy Two-Shoes: The only time in the series a desert is scene, it involves a lot of cacti.
- Averted in Code Lyoko as there are no cacti in the Desert Sector.
- An episode of Kim Possible that takes place in the Mojave Desert inevitably includes saguaros as part of its landscape. In one case, the keycard lock for accessing an Elaborate Underground Base was hidden in a fake cactus.
- In the Wild Kratts episode "Koala Balloon", the brothers cut up a prickly pear cactus to hydrate the equally out-of-place young koala they find lost in the Outback desert. Excusable in that prickly pear is an invasive species in Australia, although the Kratts don't comment on this.
- In deserts and other arid regions of southern Africa there are plants of the genus Euphorbia, in the family Euphorbiaceae, that look suspiciously similar to Cacti but are not related to cacti at all. They are more closely related to poinsettias than cacti. The two families independently evolved multiple similar forms to adapt to similar niches (barrel-shaped forms, saguaro-shaped forms, ocotillo-shaped forms, etc.)
- The "Pirates' Treasures" version of Google Maps use cactus to indicate deserts— even Arabian Desert and Gobi Desert.
- Rhipsalis baccifera is a cactus that grows in Africa and Sri Lanka. How it managed to get there while all other cacti are found in the Americas is unknown. One possibility is that its seeds were spread across oceans by birds.
- Human activity has spread cacti to Hawaii, Australia, and the Mediterranean, giving filmmakers more leeway when depicting desert environments in North Africa or the Outback. Especially the Outback, where introduced cactus species are considered a weed.