We always think of cactus as growing in the desert of the American West. So it’s sometimes a shock for people to find these fairly large cacti growing happily in the Ozarks. We have lots of rain here, and we have hard winters!
Well to be fair, the Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) is limited to glade areas that do get very hot and dry during our torrid summers. You’re not going to find them growing in a moist woodland. But they’re quite winter hardy and do a fine job of surviving in a rather hostile environment. In fact, much flora and fauna of the glades are more reminiscent of the deserts. If you’re lucky you will see collared lizards, scorpions, tarantulas, and roadrunners.
These cacti do produce a flower in the summer, quite a showy one at that (typical of the Opuntia genus). And that’s followed by an edible fruit. I’ve not tried them, though. Your mileage may vary, as they say.
The cactus pads are typically about 5″x3″, give or take, and glow in a clump just like in this picture. If you’re lucky enough to see them, take a look in the area around the cactus and see what else grows in the same habitat. I find that sort of thing fascinating.
I took this picture on a glade on the Sac River Trail, but I’ve seen cactus at hundreds of locations all over the Ozarks.