Posts Tagged ‘prickly pear cactus’

Color in April is different in Arizona than in every other place I’ve lived, starting from ground level up. Except for Steamboat Springs where April was mud season, April almost everywhere else starts with a carpet of green grass covered or at least dotted in many places by innumerable wildflowers. Not so in Arizona where in populated areas grass is replaced by a layer of rocks with individual or small groups of plants dotting it, and in the desert, not much of anything with the same individual or groups of plants. There is grass, but it requires large amounts of water, something I find irresponsible when you live in a desert.

Be that as it may, we were blessed in our rental house because we have a great variety of plants. Most of the other rentals I viewed had nothing in the backyard and I mean nothing, nothing but “dirt” and “dirt” here is a cement-like thing called caliche, nothing like in the Midwest where you can easily sink a shovel into the earth almost anywhere. One of the nicknames of caliche is “hardpan” for a reason.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty and color, such as this yellow trumpet bush which just showed up one day in a corner where it appeared nothing was growing, a welcome surprise! We have another much larger bush of these and an enormous one with orange flowers.

Red yucca isn’t really yucca (go figure) but its flowers are beautiful. There are streets with a row of these along the side which makes for very attractive landscaping.

As far as I can ascertain, this is Britton’s wild petunia, one of the flowers the bees love but one that can be invasive.

You can’t have a colorful April in Arizona without the spectacular flowers and fruits found on the cacti that are everywhere. There may be thorns on many plants but there’s also luxurious beauty and sometimes food, as in the case of the fruit of the prickly pear cactus you see here. These will open up.

Finally, there are these short-blooming, one day, flowers found on the trumpet cactus. Our cactus is small, but welcomed us with three rounds of gorgeous flowers when we moved here just over a year ago and has already has two flowers this year.

Now that we’ve seen some of the April color in our backyard, have a seat on the patio and just relax for a bit. I’m always happy when you stop by and I have some delicious jasmine green tea if you’re so inclined or some iced English breakfast.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the cacti found in Saguaro National Park. One of the first places to get out and walk that we encountered was a paved loop giving great views of a variety of cacti, a number of which were in flower or had fruit. There’s quite a bit of room between many of the cacti, but be careful where you step and don’t back up without looking!

Here’s a lovely bunch of prickly pear cactus with fruit. Prickly pear jelly can be found in the Southwest and the fruit can be eaten but you have to be very careful to completely removed the outside so no spines of any size are left. I think I’ll stick with jelly!

When I started this post I didn’t realize that cholla, the type of cactus I’m showcasing next, used to be part of the same genus as prickly pear, despite what this information board says, but have now been separated because of some differences we wouldn’t notice, . However, the board does show how important each part of the desert flora and fauna are.

I also didn’t realize that there are boatload of species of opuntia, not a hundred, but a LOT! If you’re interested in identifying the flowers, this is (un)likely to help and made me laugh:

The flowers are typically large, axillary, solitary, bisexual, and epiperigynous, with a perianth consisting of distinct, spirally arranged tepals and a hypanthium.

If you do know what all those mean, do NOT tell us or I will ban you from the blog and flog you with a wet noodle or possibly o-puntia you across the desert for being a showoff!

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As behooves us now living a desert climate, here’s a desert flower, the flower of the prickly pear cactus. We have two somewhat small prickly pears in the backyard, but they have a prodigious number of flowers waiting to bloom.