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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Clouds, Wind and Prickly Pears

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

Moseying along

Critter watch

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


Dr. K said...

Great blog post today, Packrat. It's amazing that each prickly pear cactus is so unique.

Scott said...

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.

packrat said...

All I can figure out, Scott, is that the hard palates of these critters is really hard.

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