Cactaceae have adapted to harsh environments by resisting intense solar radiation, retaining and collecting water. Some cacti species have hairs on them along with distinctive spines to serve different functions. In this study, we characterized the Old Man of Andes cactus (Oreocereus trolli). We examined the surface morphology and estimated roughness and adhesion force of both spines and hairs. They both consist of longitudinal microgrooves. The condensation experiments carried out on spines showed that there is a particular phenomenon of distant coalescence (DC): smaller droplets flow totally or partially into larger ones through the microgrooves with consequent accumulation of water in a few large drops. An earlier study (Bintein et al., 2019) has shown that artificial micro-grooved surfaces that exhibit DC are more efficient than flat ones at collecting and sliding dew, and thus cactus spines could act as soil dew conveyors. The agreement between our analytical model and experimental data verifies that the flow is driven by the Laplace pressure difference between the drops. This allowed us to obtain a general criterion for predicting the total or partial emptying of the smaller drops as a function of the dynamic contact angles of a surface. With the Wilhelmy method, we determined that hairs are less hydrophilic than spines. We also estimated the mechanical properties of both the spines and hairs to evaluate their possible role in physical defense. This study aids in better understanding the physical attributes and the condensation interaction with microstructures, and suggests some functional roles.

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