Species Identification - Plants

Prickly Pear Cactus - Opuntia humifusa

Family: Cactaceae

 

The name Opuntia comes from the Ancient Greek city of Opus where an edible plant grew that could be propagated by rooting its leaves. The “leaves” of the cactus are called cladodes or platyclades and are usually covered in spines or barbed bristles that can penetrate the skin. Some plants can grow into large tangled structures. They are intolerant of shade and thrive in full, hot sun with well-drained soil. They bloom in the late spring with waxy yellow-gold flowers with red centers. The red fruits are edible. The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus is also known as the devil’s tongue.

Range: The Eastern Prickly Pear cactus ranges from Montana south to New Mexico and from the lower Great Lakes to the eastern seaboard between New York and the Florida Keys. It prefers coastal scrub habitats like Hunting Island.

Photos by Carl Berube

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