Friday, September 21, 2012

Plant ABCs: O is for Opuntia

This post continues my "ABCs of Plants in my Garden" series and highlights the letter O for Opuntia or the cactus known as prickly pear.  The prickly pear cactus is so common here in Texas that until recently I wouldn't have imagined planting them in my yard much less writing an entire blog post on them.  But my attitude toward them has changed.

Most of the opuntia on the list are planted in the cactus patch along the creek in the back yard and were acquired from Jean "the cactus guy" we found on craigslist.



O. humifusa is a hardy prostrate form of prickly pear.  This one is native to most of North America and grows as far north as Montana.  The option of using it as a groundcover makes it quite versatile in the garden. 



O. lindheimeri var. linguiformis is the aptly named Cow's Tongue prickly pear. It is popular throughout the southwest and is native to a small area just north of of San Antonio near New Braunfels.   I posted about visiting them "in the wild" on a nearby ranch.  They grow very fast, this one in my back yard was planted as a single pad just 6 months ago.


O. microdasys 'albata' Bunny ears cactus.  So cute, in the spring it resembles Mickey Mouse when it grows two ears at a time as you can see in the back middle.


O. microdasys 'rufida'  Cinnamon bunny ears.  I love the deeper color of the dots.


O. santa-rita 'Tubac'  is a colorful cactus which turns from green to purple in cooler weather so it just began to take on color with an early cool front this year.



The parent plant blooming with yellow flowers at Ragna's house last spring, I expect mine to bloom for the first time next spring.



O. Robusta lives up to its name with large, puffy cactus pads.  It will get very large and I expect to have to prune it back from time to time.


O. leptocaulis known as Christmas Cholla because the fruits ripen in the winter instead of spring as with prickly pear. The Christmas Cholla is native to this area and I have found it growing on the roadside just about 20 minutes from here.  It's tough to see because the stems are pencil thin and blend with the Tecoma stans in the background.

 

O. Impricata (Cylindropuntia imbricata) is known as Cholla, sometimes called walking stick cactus because the dried arms are used for walking sticks and all manner of craft projects.


These NOIDs are literally native right  here and have been growing in this spot along the creek just over the property line since we bought the house more than 15 years ago.  We add to the stand of opuntia by relocating any we find popping up in the yard to this spot.  It's tough to ID these, but there appears to be at least three different varieties here which range from round to oblong.



More unidentified opuntia keep popping up in the front yard even though they were all removed nearly 20 years ago when the house was built.  While weeding in the gravel recently, I put my hand down for balance and--ouch!  This is a particularly nasty one and it took a while to get all the spines and glochids out.  I used a combination of tweezers, duct tape and Elmer's glue.  It will be relocated soon.


In a bit of a departure from focusing on my yard, lets take a walk across the creek and see a stand of opuntia growing along the arroyo which channels runoff from a nearby road into the creek.   It appears the local wildlife have missed one of the fruits.

This field looks like it is out in the country, but it is in the city near a busy intersection


That concludes the round-up of Opuntia in my garden.  I've set up a page for my ABCs of Plants list.  When I complete one turn through the alphabet I will continue to highlight plants to add to the list.

14 comments:

  1. I like your dedication here. This is a worthy plant to have in the landscape. I felt like you did when I first moved here but I have come to love the form and structure of this cactus. I just don't like the nasty glochids from the bunny ears!!! Ouch...don't get them in your eyes. You have a lovely selection.

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    1. So far I've managed to steer clear of most of the spines, it could be all the practice I had growing up.

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  2. I sure did not know there were so many prickly pear varieties. The blooms are beautiful. I like the different textures as well.

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    1. They are interesting and my little collection doesn't nearly cover the varieties available to true collectors.

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  3. Fun to see such a wide variety of these plants that are becoming popular here, where they seem fairly exotic. I especially like the polka-dot look and the purple blush.

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    1. I''ve noticed that PNW seems to have a lot of interest in these.

      You have many plants which grow well there that are exotic to us.

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  4. Thanks for highlighting these cool cacti! You've got a lot of interesting ones! Until just recently, I wansn't fond of them at all but they've grown on me. Now I admire their fun shapes, variety of color & relative ease. I'll be leaving one outside for the first time this year to see if it can make it through the winter in a pot. It's got very well draining soil so we'll see.

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    1. They are easy, we get pretty cold and wet here in the winter so it should work for you. You might need to protect the roots from cold.

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  5. Never been a big fan of Opuntias, they are a bit, now what's the word? Oh yes, prickly. They do have nice flowers though.

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    1. That's my view since childhood, learning to avoid them was important. The forms and flowers will win you over.

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  6. Yay for the Opuntia! You've got a fabulous collection and you have no idea how happy it makes me that you're appreciating them by giving over the letter "O" to celebrate them!

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    1. I'm glad you saw this Loree, I did think you might like it so I had at least an idea.

      Don't miss tomorrow, I have another cactus garden.

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  7. You have such a variety Shirely! I especially like the thin christmas cholla - I have never seen one of those. Neato!

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  8. Congratulations! I like your opuntias. You could sell me some?
    I live in Mexico city.
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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