Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Early Opuntia Are Blooming!

Temperatures have been pushing close to 90F lately, so Spring is really here! While many of the Mammillaria have been in bloom, it is still a bit early for prickly pear (genus Opuntia). However, driving home after work Friday an early variety on the west side of our neighbor, Leenie's house, (or perhaps early because they are on the west side), is already blooming. Generally, they all have big yellow blossoms, and strike quite a contrast with the dull green or purple of the cactus pads. As always, click on the photos for a full-screen view.

In my opinion, the flowers are not the only photo-worthy parts of the plants. The new pad growth have a beauty all their own, and it is quite amazing how fast they grow from a little pimple on the edge of the pad to a full-grown pad in their own right. The growing cladophylls sometimes bear striking colors, and while still young and tender, are edible to humans (seen as cans of nopales in the Mexican section of local stores here, or sold fresh in some vegetable markets). Here are a couple examples taken within 100 feet of our front door yesterday. I don't know the varieties pictured, but they are very photogenic! Note also that the young growth is home to a variety of insects. In the middle picture, note the aphids at top center, an unidentified bug right center, and an ant below. I hadn't noticed the aphids until I saw the photos on the computer screen. I went out to try a closer shot today, and they are shown at right with a little more detail. The macro focuses closer, but I would have had to climb into a cactus pile to move closer - will keep an eye out for easier prey!

Many of the prickly pear are sporting their flower buds, but a species at a neighbor's down the street really takes the cake! Instead of just a few buds around the edge of the pads, it sports over a dozen buds over the full pad face! They are unlikely to all bloom at once, but I'll be keeping an eye on them. While photographing it last year, they came out and offered some pads for me to plant. While I didn't take them up then, I may soon. They are easily propagated by sticking the pad in the ground and watering well for few weeks. Before you know it, you'll have one a few feet high.

I'm closing out this post with some non-cactus blossoms. On our trip last weekend to Mexico, the Desert Globe Mallow was in bloom most of the way. It wasn't until we got back that this one, growing in our yard between our parked vehicles, bloomed as well. The apricot color is just about the only only desert flower of this shade, and the plant is also known as an Apricot Mallow as well for that reason. Keep watching, we'll be running more desert plants as they flower through the Spring.

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