Prickly Pear Cactus

photo by Andrew McKinlay CC BY-NC

Prickly Pear Cacti form low mounds (1-2 ft tall) of flat, green, fleshy, oval pads with clusters of large needle-like spines and small hair-like prickles. The bright yellow, papery flowers have several layers of petals. The petals often have an apricot tinge and may fade to dusty red.

Prickly Pear Cacti can be found in dry grasslands, badlands, and eroded areas. They are most common in southwestern Canada and the United States but can sometimes be found in dry, sunny, sandy areas in southeastern Ontario and the eastern United States.

The fruit are small (1-2 in long) and oval, ranging in colour from yellowish-green to red or purple, and are filled with flat, disc-shaped seeds.

Did you know? Many wildlife species, including Pronghorns, Deer, and Box Turtles eat the fruit and pads. The cacti provide protection and cover for small mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects.

See Also: Pincushion Cactus