Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beavertail cactus blooming

After a longer and cooler spring than usual, summer has finally arrived, and our cacti are enjoying the abundance of sunshine.

Some of our smaller cacti bloomed a while ago (check this and this), and now it seems that our prickly pears (Opuntia sp.) are getting into the swing of things well.

The first prickly pear to bloom is a beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris) I picked up in January from UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. I believe they had propagated it from seed.

Opuntia basilaris is native to California and the Southwest. We saw quite a few in the wild in Joshua Tree National Park earlier this year. As far as prickly pears go, it’s one of the smaller species, growing to maybe 2 ft. in height. However, a clump can be quite wide and consist of hundreds of individual pads. The coloration is beautiful—a steel gray with a touch of purple, more pronounced in the winter. As the temperature increases, the color seems to become greener.

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Opuntia basilaris in Joshua Tree National Park

Our small plant (about 1 ft tall) has had one flower bud for at least a month now but it wasn’t until three or four days ago when the thermometer climbed into the 80s that the bud started to grow larger. Today it finally opened up.

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Our potted Opuntia basilaris in bloom

The color is hard to describe. Neon magenta comes to mind. It’s the kind of color your eye is drawn to from quite a distance.

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The color is almost unreal
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Pollination appears to be mostly by bees

I don’t know how long these flowers will last but I will sure enjoy them.

Here is a photo of an entire clump in bloom, courtesy of Wikimedia:

According to Wikimedia, this photo was taken by Stan Shebs in the “sandy area of Pine Creek Canyon east of the old homestead, Red Rock Canyon, Spring Mountains, southern Nevada (elev. about 1200 m)”

My bunny ears cactus (Opuntia microdasys ‘Albata’) has a bunch of flower buds which I’m hoping will open up soon. I’ll post photos when they do.

2 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, that is beautiful! I have always wanted a pink blooming opuntia! I think I have a small one that I started from a pad from Arizona. But so far, no blooms yet!

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  2. It never fails to amaze how such lovely flowers come out from 'not so friendly' Opuntias :)

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