Thursday, August 3, 2017

Engelmann's Prickly Pear Cactus

These Engelmann prickly pear cactus were found in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. They have light green or sometimes bluish pads and grow in clusters that spread along the ground with lateral pads rooting as they move along. 
Prickly pear cactus near Alamo Canyon.
The new pads are lime green and have small thin leaves instead of spines initially, which then drop off and are replaced by spines. They also have glochids which are short, hair-like spines, that easily detach from the cactus unlike the spines.  The glochids are initially yellow and then turn brown with age. The spines grow in clusters of two to six from areoles that are quite spread out. 
These spines are growing in clusters of three.
This prickly pear has spine clusters of at least four and shows the remnants of yellow flowers and one fruit.
They have yellow flowers that bloom in the spring, usually in April or May, and last only one day. 
A yellow flower not quite fully in bloom.
The flowers then develop into purple-red fruit which were a food of the Tohono O'odham Indians of the Sonoran Desert.   
Examples of ripe fruit.

A fruit removed from its pad.
The edible pulp inside the fruit. It is slightly sweet, sometimes a little sour if not fully ripe, and full of large seeds. 
The seeds are very hard and it felt like it would be pushing it to try and crunch them up or swallow them. 
This fruit has been sliced in half while still connected to the pad. 
This fruit was a little more ripe than the one above and the inner pulp was more liquid.  
Here much of the fruit has been scooped out and eaten. 


  1. I looks a bit like a pomegranate.

  2. Harvesting looks a little tricky. You'd have to really love these to harvest very many of them.