Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A seasonal reddening

with 8 comments

Click for greater detail and sharpness.

And let’s continue with the color red from this morning, but in the form it takes when it visits not the spines but the pads of the prickly pear, Opuntia engelmannii, that 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 walked through the park again and found a differently colored version of what I’d seen before. Possibly due to a freeze toward the end of last year, this pad had turned the shades of red that you see. It looked to me as if the cactus wouldn’t survive a lot longer, but prickly pears are tough, and for all I know this one might still be around for a long time.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 10, 2012 at 12:38 PM

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Fabulous photo (in all senses of the word)! Ought to be in a fine art museum (though I’m certainly glad it’s available here).

    Susan Scheid

    February 10, 2012 at 8:59 PM

    • Thanks so much, Susan. I thought this might be a harder picture for people to like, so I’m glad you appreciate it. Now if you can sell the director of an art museum on it…

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 10, 2012 at 9:03 PM

  2. You may enjoy reading Amado Nervo, Mexican poet and short story writer from the early 1900’s. His story “La yaqui hermosa” describes the beautiful yaqui using iconic Mexican images…the nopal among them. I had always thought the nopal described the pink/red present in her complexion, but now I better understand it alludes to her strength and toughness as well.


    February 11, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    • Thanks for the story suggestion, Georgette. I’m pleased that this picture of a red prickly pear pad gave you a new insight into the character in the story. It’s not a connection I’d have expected, but a welcome one all the same.

      By the way, I still have a yellowing copy of the Poesías completas of Amado Nervo that I picked up somewhere decades ago. The price penciled inside the cover is 3.20, but I no longer know in what currency.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2012 at 9:25 AM

  3. This is way cool Steve…to me, at first glance it had an alien look to it. It wasn’t until I read your post that I understood what I was looking at. We have prickly pear cactus up here also (usually planted as a specimen) but I have never seen them turn red! They are hardy buggers!


    February 11, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    • If you didn’t initially know what this was, then it was an effective abstraction. The pads can turn yellowish and less vivid shades of red and orange, too. The one shown here caught my attention because it was so red. Some of the other parts of the cactus were where I would have preferred to stand to get a good picture, but I insinuated myself the best I could and managed to get some photographs that were good enough.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2012 at 2:22 PM

  4. I’ve never seen red prickly pear pads, and never would have guessed this one’s identity. I did a quick image search and found only one other photo listed as “ruby red prickly pear”, so I’m still not sure if this one’s a variety or diseased.

    It is beautiful, no question about that. If I discover it’s a variety, I may have to have some!


    February 12, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    • There is a reddish species of prickly pear, but it’s found in far west Texas. You can see a picture at:


      The red pad that I photographed in Austin was on a cactus whose other pads, as I recall, were within the range of greens that you wouldn’t think twice about, though perhaps at the yellowish end of that typical range. The sight of a pad so red made me put down my camera bag and see what sorts of pictures I might manage to get.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: