Cacti produce a variety of fruit types from juicy to dry, naked to scaly, and indehiscent to dehiscent. All produce numerous seeds that are usually embedded in a fleshy pulp. Colors also vary from nearly black to bright blue, white, yellow, green, and red. Because of this variability, and because the characters tend to be stable, fruits are important in understanding cactus relationships. On the other hand, fruits have changed, depending on dispersal methods, and these syndromes must be interpreted with care in the same way as pollination syndromes.

The cactus fruit consists of the lower portion of the floral tube as well as the ovary within it. Thus the cactus fruit is, in fact, a shoot or false fruit in the strict botanical sense (Mauseth 1984b, 254). Floral remnants may also persist. The fruit wall is thus made up of an inner layer from the ovary wall and an outer layer (accessory tissue) derived from the pericarpel. Most cactus fruits bear scales, hairs, wool, or even spines on their exterior though some genera such as Ariocarpus, Lo-phophora, Mammillaria (M. crinita and M. prolifera, for example), and Melocactus have naked fruits. In some cases, the areoles on the fruits produce flowers and fruits, resulting in long chains of fruits as in Cylindropuntia fulgida.

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