Yellow Prickly Pear (Opuntia unknown) Blooms

Yellow Prickly Pear Cactus

I have always had a soft spot for cactus. They are really quite remarkable plants, after all.

A plant that has figured out a way to exist in some of the harshest climates on the planet while also producing massive growth.

Even more impressive, cactus often produce just flat out stunning blooms.

I have one barrel cactus that is less than 10 inches in diameter that still produced a bloom that was well over 1 foot tall and a good 4″ in diameter! All from what looked to be some little fuzzy growth nubbins in the spring. Better yet, it looks like this cactus is going to do the same again this year!

Like orchids, Cactus often rely upon non-bee pollinators and, thus, it isn’t altogether surprising that their blooms are not really optimized to making the pollen as accessible as possible.

Yellow Prickly Pear Detail

I found this particular cactus on someone’s yard clippings pile while driving home one day. I stopped and grabbed a big chunk.

I figured that I would throw it in the ground and it would either take root or turn to compost.

Take root it did! Last year it didn’t do much, but it didn’t rot either. Apparently, it was setting down roots.

This year, though, it decided to grow what I thought were a bunch of new leaves.

It turns out that they were, in fact, buds and the cactus was going to flower!

This cactus is some kind of prickly pear (Opuntia) and the flower buds are very likely growing on top of what will turn into fruit. All the better because prickly pear is quite delicious with a unique flavor.

And, if the spine are not obvious enough, prickly pear is often one of the more painful fruits to clean unless you are very very careful.

Yellow Prickly Pear Blossom Detail

The blossoms are compact, but just loaded with pollen. I haven’t seen anything visiting them yet, but they may be a flower optimized to some kind of night flying pollinator — typically a moth or bat.

The prickly pear (Opuntia) is one of the few cold tolerant cactus species. They are commonly found throughout the southwest US and Mexico.

Given that they grow very quickly, it is common to see piles of prickly pear cuttings at the side of the road. They sprout easily and, thus, it is trivial to start your own pear garden.

I have another species of prickly pear at the other corner of the house. It looks like it is setting blooms, too, which amazes me given that I just dropped cuttings — found on the side of the road — in the ground last fall!

The two that I have aren’t particularly spiny, but their looks are misleading. The little tufts of what look to be hair on the pads are actually needle sharp, hair thin, spikes that will get into your skin and are quite irritating.

Definitely to be handled with gloves! Or just leave ’em alone and enjoy the interesting growth and occasional flowers!



2 Responses to “Yellow Prickly Pear (Opuntia unknown) Blooms”

  1. Charles says:

    If I recall correctly, prickly pear blooms close at night. It’s been a while since you posted, so the short-lived blooms are probably gone by now, but if not, check it out. There are quite a few cactus that close their blooms at night, apparently it’s an evolutionary adaptation to prevent water evaporation.

  2. Opuntia ficus indica says:

    Lovely. Opuntia ficus indica also has various medicinal uses – including use as a hangover cure. 🙂

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