Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Prickly, Prickly, PRICKLY PEARS!

As you all know, I was out of town for Thanksgiving. I was in western North Carolina area for a visit with Mr. Fix-it's family. While there we all went out shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Not sure what you call this Friday. On the way to the big double decker mall I could not help but turn Mr. Fix-it's truck around practically in the middle of the highway to stop and take pictures of this very unique and (I think) beautiful community garden. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law were a bit shocked I got out in the road to snap these pictures. (There were no cars around I promise)

You can tell from the two pictures it is all of what appears to be cactus. It is in fact cactus. The common name is Prickly Pear Cactus and the scientific name is Opuntia humifusa. My Southern Living Garden Book says this is a southern heritage plant and it is native from Canada south to Florida and eastern Texas.

This is a really, really cool plant. I was fortunate to visit a great gardener here on the south side of Clarksville (Lucy) who gave me the prickly pear. My garden club friend (Nancy) set up a visit to Lucy's wonderful garden for Geri, myself and another friend in early spring. It was a gorgeous garden and Lucy is so knowledgeable about so much.

Lucy was reworking some areas of her garden and happened to have just thinned out her prickly pear. She asked us all if we wanted some. Of course you know I had to have some. My friends kindly said,"No way. We will just see how it does for you in your garden Tina." A bit squeamishly I might add. I think the spikes scared them silly. You can see them in the first picture this cactus has some spikes.

I hurried over to where the pile of discarded leaves were and went to pick out some choice samples for my Wal-mart bag when Lucy screamed, "NO! Don't touch it!" Geri got quite a kick out of this and loves telling this story. I jumped about out of my skin because I was not expecting this. I though I had done something wrong. Come to find out Lucy was just protecting me and my bare hands. She approached the cactus with long gloves and an even longer skewer fork to pick up the leaves. She pierced the leaves mercilessly and threw them in triple Wal-mart bags. You see, it is not the big spikes that will get you but the little ones you can't see. Lesson learned. Jimmy has also learned about the little spikes you cannot see, the hard way. I don't know what it is about cactus that makes us want to touch it just to see if we will get pricked.

I had just the place for the cactus-right next to my prickly low maintenance yucca next to the road. Lucy told me to just throw it down and it will root. How right she was! It didn't take long either. I love this stuff.

When my mother came in August the one thing Dawn, my sister, requested was some prickly pear from the beaches in Florida since my mother was heading to Florida to see the other sister after she left my house. I told her don't bother, I would just cut a leaf off from mine and skewer it into a triple Wal-mart bag and she could take it to Dawn. Dawn kindly sent me a picture of her prickly pear and you can see it is doing just fine. She rooted hers differently than I did. I just literally threw mine down and the roots grew out of the side but this cactus is very adaptable and doesn't care how it roots-it just does. Dawn, I think you can safely plant out your prickly pear next spring. It should do fine in Maine.

I have seen this cactus all over town and in a lot of my travels but I am sure I have never seen its fruit. It flowers a lovely yellow flower but then the fruit comes out a dark purple as in the first picture. Isn't it cool? The entire garden in Hickory consisted of nothing but prickly, prickly, PRICKLY pear. If the garden had been next to the restaurant it fronted, a burglar would never stand a chance!

If you grow this cactus make sure it is in a location you and small children or pets will not accidentally run into. I would not plant it near my house that is for sure. It would work as a good deterrent for errant adjacent property owner's dogs and children if desired, along a border in a sunny area. It does do well in part shade as mine grows in mostly shade. I am thinking the pesky deer will not eat it either!

I have some bad news. I saw a dead fox on Dover Road not far from the bypass. I am wondering if it is the same one I almost hit over two weeks ago. Please be careful out there when driving as animals are out in full force looking for food and dashing across busy highways. It is heartbreaking to hit and kill an animal. I have done this only once and will never forget the thumps. So I feel bad for both the dead fox and the person who accidentally hit it.

in the garden....


  1. Hi Guys, Where in Canada is this found? I have never seen one, must be in protected areas.
    I tried to get another one of the prickly pear from Texas but we came back with more luggage than what we left with. Texas blooms yellow. Oh and btw don't display prickly pear atop a fish tank, the heat from the light zaps the liquid from it. Found that out from the one I got off a Florida beach. bye for now, got scads of laundry to do.

  2. Tons of this stuff grows in Texas! I had my dumb experience with it. While out in the woods one day I stumbled across a small patch and decided to bring it home with me to try my luck. Well, well, those things are not nice to fingers! I never messed with it again! Not worth it to me. I probably still have some spines under my skin.... The Saint had to laugh at me because he had warned me not to take a snip of it. This time, HE WAS RIGHT! It is beautiful with its yellow blooms in Texas. I wonder if the song Yellow Rose of Texas is talking about this cactus? hummmmm

    I find it interesting that it would grow in Maine. I think of cactus as a desert plant and not a cold winter survivor….

    Sorry you had to see the dead fox Tina. Sniff... this past weekend while out and about, we spotted several dead foxes on our roadways. The growth of our county is pushing them all over the place in search for food and shelter...

  3. funny Skeeter. Men ARE right but lucky for as...not as often as the tougher gender.

  4. Hey Guys,
    I thought I was done raking-fat chance. I raked the entire one acre today in the rain (like Ginger) and what fun. Unfortunately, the back pays for it.

    Prickly pears are prickly as Skeeter found out and good for the Saint for getting it right. I am just not sure what makes us want to touch cactus but we all do it.

    My book says it grows all to way to Canada. I bet in a sheltered spot but as long as it had good drainage I think it would be fine. Try it outside next year Dawn. I can always give you more. Interesting note about cactus. I think I read somewhere Maine is one of two states which does not have a native cactus. Doesn't make sense with the prickly pear then does it? I am confusing myself. Better go then!

  5. Tina, I sure am glad you gave me that for Dawn cause I never got on a beach in FL. Joanne wanted to take me but it is so hard for me to walk on a beach (and you know how Nana and I loved the beach) and my wheelchair is worse than me on the beach. Not sure if my electric chair would work or not. It might as it has such wide wheels. If any electric would, it would as Permobil is the best. But ya can't take it on a plane and not enough room in the van.

    I don't know about catus in Maine but we do have a small desert in Maine. Your are right about wanting to touch catus. With the small potted one I have I will stick my finger on a spine every now and then. I have had that plant for probably 10 years but it does not do much. It has grown tall but I guess it can't do much else as it is still in the tiny, tiny pot I bought it in. I bought some catus soil a couple of years ago but never did chance it. Maybe I should do that sometime. Love ya

  6. Mom, why do you think people just want to touch cactus? To see if they can do it without getting stuck? You should repot that cactus and see if it grows more.

  7. Hi Guys, I think a bunch of these would look good in a bonsai tray (wide and shallow) I want to do that for one shelf in the house, keeping cats away. Mom I bought cactus soil also but I really think it's sold as a gimic, that is to have the lightly colored soil against the green. I haven't tried mine yet either.
    Jack of all trades was outside until 10:30 last night and we have water! Got a big concert today, Miss Fashionista guilted her father about being in attendance for it. He reminded her he would try his best to be there x3 last night. She casually strolled to bed x3, or tried too! Then gave him a kiss goodnight. He will be there, after all, 4 songs this year.
    PS Tina, Friday after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, named for the retailers getting in the "black" instead of being in the "red" all year long. The following Monday is Cybor Monday, named for the internet shopping.

  8. Tina in my case I did not try to touch the catus except for getting it into the truck for transport home to plant. But with the prickly pear catcus, the tiny cluster of spines look so soft so maybe that is why some people touch it...

  9. Glad you got your problem repaired Dawn...