|Fruit of the Prickly Pear Cactus|
Ripe fruit of the Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia
) is abundant all over the desert now. It is a highly reliable and nutritious food source for many animals: Coyotes, Collared Peccaries (Javelina) rabbits, pack rats, jackrabbits, deer, kangaroo rats, quail, dove, woodpeckers, etcetera. At this time of year you'll often come upon Coyote scat tinted red and filled with the seeds of the "pear" (aka "tuna"). The pads of the Prickly Pear, also called "nopales," are eaten, too. One May morning in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park Dr. K and I watched a small herd of Javelinas munching on the Prickly Pear pads--spines and all! Tunas and nopales are sold in local supermarkets for human consumption. I have fried nopales (like green peppers) in a pan and then scrambled them with eggs; quite a tasty and nutritious breakfast. The Tohono O'odham people (formerly known as the Pima Indians) of southern Arizona make jelly of the Prickly Pear fruit and sell the jarred spread on the reservation near San Xavier del Bac (aka "The White Dove of the Desert").
|Desert Cottontail on alert|
|Trail leading up to the foothills|
|Typical Prickly Pear Cactus laden with fruit|
|Cool summer day: cloudy with wind|
|Not so ripe/ripe|
|Holey Prickly Pear pad|
|Different perspective of the hole|
|Organ Mountains in the distance|
|Just west of the Tortoise|
|Large ripe Prickly "Pears"|
|Butterflies on the move|
|My guess is that this is a moth rather than a butterfly|
Great blog post today, Packrat. It's amazing that each prickly pear cactus is so unique.
Thank you, Dr. K.
It's astonishing that the spines don't "work" as they should to protect the prickly pears, isn't it? Around here, white-tailed deer eat multiflora rose canes that would absolutely shred our mouths if we tried to do it.
All I can figure out, Scott, is that the hard palates of these critters is really hard.
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