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FutureStarrButterfly Milkweed Planting Instructionsor
Some species have become invasive in regions outside their native ranges. When prickly pears were first introduced to Australia and southern Africa by early explorers, they prospered, and, having left behind their natural parasites and competitors, they eventually became pests. In some cases they have been brought under control by introducing moths of the genusThe Engelmann prickly pear cactus (Opuntia engelmannii) can be easily identified by it's broad, flat, green pads. The white spines are 3" long and can be flat, curved or straight. They also are covered with tiny, barbed hairs known as glochids. Groups of up to 6 spines emerge from a common center areas known as areole's which are scattered around each pad. The flowers are yellow and emerge in May-June. Ripe fruit are found beginning in July and are identified by their bright red color.
Prickly pears typically grow with flat, rounded cladodes (also called platyclades) containing large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike prickles called glochids that readily adhere to skin or hair, then detach from the plant. The flowers are typically large, axillary, solitary, bisexual, and epiperigynous, with a perianth consisting of distinct, spirally arranged tepals and a hypanthium. The stamens are numerous and in spiral or whorled clusters, and the gynoecium has numerous inferior ovaries per carpel. Placentation is parietal, and the fruit is a berry with arillate seeds. Prickly pear species can vary greatly in habit; most are shrubs, but some, such as Opuntia galapageia of the Galápagos, are trees.Animals that eat Opuntia include the prickly pear island snail and Cyclura rock iguanas. The fruit are relished by many arid-land animals, chiefly birds, which thus help distribute the seeds. Opuntia pathogens include the sac fungus Colletotrichum coccodes and Sammons' Opuntia virus. The ant Crematogaster opuntiae and the spider Theridion opuntia are named because of their association with prickly pear cactus.
Prickly pear species are found in abundance in Mexico, especially in the central and western regions, and in the Caribbean islands (West Indies). In the United States, prickly pears are native to many areas of the arid, semiarid, and drought-prone Western and South Central United States, including the lower elevations of the Rocky Mountains and southern Great Plains, where species such as Opuntia phaeacantha and Opuntia polyacantha become dominant, and to the desert Southwest, where several types are endemic. Prickly pear cactus is also native to sandy coastal beach scrub environments of the East Coast from Florida to southern Connecticut, where Opuntia humifusa, Opuntia stricta, and Opuntia pusilla, are found from the East Coast south into the Caribbean and the Bahamas. Additionally, the eastern prickly pear is native to the midwestern "sand prairies" nearby major river systems, such as the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio rivers. A beauty and a beast, prickly pear is beloved for its blossoms and feared for its vicious spines. Its yellow, red, and orange cup-shape flowers last just one day, but a large clump of prickly pears will bloom for several weeks in summer, providing delicate beauty among the thorns. Don’t let the spines deter you from planting prickly pear. Position it near the middle or back of a garden where it won’t be disturbed. Or plant it along a property line where it will act as a living fence, preventing passersby from entering. (Source: www.bhg.com)