Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Mottled prickly pear cactus pad

with 14 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Walking in the nature preserve called St. Edward’s Park in my part of Austin yesterday morning, I encountered a group of prickly pear cacti, Opuntia engelmannii, some of whose pads had taken on the mottled look that characterizes stress or approaching death. The long diagonal shadows of the cactus spines contrasted with the rounded splotches on the surface of the pads and added to the overall pattern.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(Look here for information about Opuntia engelmannii, including a clickable map showing where the species grows.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 10, 2011 at 5:42 AM

14 Responses

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  1. […] also came upon a dead prickly pear cactus (Opuntia engelmannii). When this type of cactus dies, the outer covering of each pad decomposes and reveals the complex inner structure. The chambers among the fibers shown here once […]

    • Would you know of anyone in the area that collects the dead pads? I have a project in mind to use them in.

      Larry T.

      January 8, 2012 at 10:11 AM

      • I’m afraid I don’t. You might check with one of the local chapters of the Native Plant Society or place a free ad on Craigslist.

        Steve Schwartzman

        January 8, 2012 at 1:22 PM

  2. […] For the different pattern created by the mottling of a prickly pear cactus pad rather than its fruit, see a post from the first week of this blog. […]

  3. Gorgeous. One of the delights of close-up photography is that objects can appear as other things. To my first glance, this looked like a bird’s eye view of a landscape.


    January 15, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    • I’m glad you like this, and that you first saw it as a landscape from above. Imagination can be a powerful—and welcome—force.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2012 at 10:33 PM

  4. […] has been a recent subject here. A post in the second week of this blog, in June of 2011, showed patterns on the surface of a prickly pear pad that I found growing in St. Edward’s Park in northwest Austin. On January 17 of this year I […]

  5. […] the past week. One post last year dealt with the structure inside a cactus pad, and another with discoloration on the surface of a pad, but I was intrigued in August of 2011 by the the ringed patterns I saw on the outside of some […]

  6. This is very interesting! 🙂


    December 19, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    • I was pleased with this abstraction, which was different from any of the prickly pear pictures I’d taken before. This post dates from the first week of the blog, so almost no one saw it. I’m glad you took a look.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 10:24 AM

  7. wow this is awesomely unreal. Looks like some strange creatures under a microscope!


    January 27, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    • You can tell that I’m fond of abstraction.

      This picture was from the first week of my blog, some 900 days ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 28, 2014 at 6:43 AM

      • Wow, 900 days, almost three years?

        Yes I can see that and for good reason too. I would be pretty excited about this picture if it were mine. I read that you said you were a teacher before, were you a science teacher? Lol.



        January 28, 2014 at 7:29 PM

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