P: Prickly Pear Cacti

The flat & rounded spiky pads of prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.) can be found throughout Red Rock Canyon. During late spring, you can catch vibrant peach, pink, and purple colored flowers in bloom on top of their pads. When successfully pollinated, these flowers turn into red to purple fruits that become treats for wildlife. Natives would eat both the pads and fruits of prickly pear.

Generally speaking, prickly pear species will grow to be one to three feet tall. Places to look for these cacti include Calico Basin, the Calico Hills, Willow Springs, and the Visitor Center. Some species of prickly pear feature long spines, such as tulip prickly pear (Opuntia phaeacantha) and pancake prickly pear (Opuntia chlorotica), while others look spine-less, such as beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris). Be aware though, as these cacti have shore & sharp bristles called glochids. Prickly pear cacti are well adapted to the arid conditions of the desert and capture carbon dioxide for photosynthesis during the night to reduce water loss.

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