Opuntia humifusa, prickly pear cactus or devil's tongue, is a low growing, spreading succulent cactus with enlarged fleshy, spiny, green pads and lemon yellow flowers. The showy yellow flowers are 3 to 4 inches across and bloom in May and June. Prickly pear cactus is found growing wild in colonies on glades of limestone, sandstone, and igneous rock and sandy fields and pastures throughout the Ozarks and most of the Midwest and eastern USA. The common name prickly pear refers to the red, bristly, pearlike fruit. Native Americans ate the fruit, pads, buds, and flowers raw, cooked, or dried. Prickly pear cactus plants are grown in the wild flower rock garden as a focal point or can be grown inside as a potted plant.
Prickly pear cactus plants, when growing wild, often lay flat or near the ground. Under optimal garden conditions prickly pear will grow one to two feet tall and produce larger pads. They thrive in rock gardens or containers and can be effective in a mixed planting, borders and natural areas. Hardy prickly pear is low-growing and its brilliant yellow flowers and meandering pads are a welcome addition to the sunny flower garden.
Photo taken Thursday, July 9, 2009 at Illinois Beach State Park.
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