Yellow Cactus of Texas

May 19, 2003

Maycactus

Provided by: Fred Dillard
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster

The photo above, showing the beautiful blossoms on a prickly pear cactus, was taken in early May on a ranch in Texas. These thorny plants seem to be blooming particularly "hard" this year -- lots of colorful blossoms. Although it may not possess the impressive size or distinctive appearance of other cacti, such as the saguaro cactus, the prickly pear is a rather common sight along roadways throughout the southwestern U.S, Mexico, and the Great Plains. Yellow-colored blossoms are most frequently observed during the short blooming season (late April and early May), but red and purple flowers occur as well -- different colors of flowers can appear even within the same species. The prickly pear (Opuntia genus, Family Cactaceae) was named the state plant of Texas in 1995. So like longhorn cattle, the Alamo and the two-step, for better or worse, the prickly pear is now part of the lore of the Lone Star State. Prickly pear pads can be eaten by people. Called "Nopalito," they're cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The fruits are also edible and sold as "tuna."

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