Pleated Cactus

Pleated cactus

How do the pleats of a saguaro cactus help it survive in the dry desert? Learn the answer in this paper cactus craft.

What You Need

  • Construction paper (2 green sheets; 1 white sheet)
  • Yellow marker or crayon
  • Scissors
  • Tape

What You Do

  1. Fold Green paper
    Fold a sheet of green construction paper into one-inch pleats. Begin folding on one of the short sides of the paper, flipping the paper over after each fold. You should be able to fold the sheet 10 times.
  2. Make Cactus Body
    Hold the ends of the folded paper together, overlapping the first and last fold to make a tube. Tape the folds together. The ends of the tube will look like a five-pointed star. Hold the folded tube flat, with pleats showing on both sides of the fold line and trim one end into a rounded shape.
  3. Add Cactus Arms
    Cut arms out of green construction paper and tape them to the pleated cactus body. Cut out a white paper flower as shown. Color its center yellow and tape it onto one of the arms.Pleated cactus
  4. Experiment With the Pleats
    Stand the cactus up on its straight end. You should be able to see the pleats clearly. Now ask your child to put one hand inside the pleated tube and gently spread his or her fingers apart to see how it expands. When the hand comes out, the pleats shrink back a bit.
  5. Talk About the Cactus
    • What happens when you open your hand inside the cactus? (The cactus gets bigger, or expands.)
    • Why might a saguaro need to be able to get bigger? (When it rains in the saguaro’s dry desert habitat, the cactus can fill up with water by expanding the pleats in its flesh. It can then store the precious water for the many dry days to come.)
    • What happens when the cactus uses up the stored water? (The pleats fold back in, as your child can see after removing his or her hand from the paper tube.)