Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not a Christmas cactus

with 13 comments

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My post for December 25, 2011, appropriately showed a Christmas cactus, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis. The cactus in today’s photograph, which shows the view looking straight down at the ground, has the same color scheme, but it’s a different genus and species, Escobaria missouriensis, that I photographed in the Texas Hill Country on Nan Hampton’s property outside of Lampasas on March 22. The four small red fruits were no longer attached to the cactus but were kept in place by its spines and by gravity.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 20, 2012 at 5:32 AM

13 Responses

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  1. Wish we had such stunning cactus:( Our only addition to the PA garden is the Yellow Prickly Pear from which I am STILL removing microscopic thorns from my hands after my last encounter!

    Bonnie Michelle

    April 20, 2012 at 6:29 AM

    • Texas is a land of cacti. There are many more kinds in west Texas than here in the center of the state, but we still have a goodly number. The prickly pears, which you’ve seen in these pages and which began flowering a week ago in Austin, far outnumber all the rest. One more reason for me to be glad to encounter the less common species in today’s picture.

      Sorry about the glochids in your skin. I’ve gotten off easy so far this year, but it’s only a matter of time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2012 at 7:57 AM

  2. This one surprised me. When I did a search for other images, I realized I’ve seen the cactus, but not the bloom or fruit. That vibrant red seems unusual. The only other red I can remember seeing is the seed of the mountain laurel.

    Those little fruits stuck on thorns remind me of toothpicked appetizers on a 1950s buffet table.


    April 20, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    • It’s always nice to be able to put a name to something you’ve seen but couldn’t identify.

      Funny you should mention the mountain laurel, because I was thinking about its bright read (and poisonous) seeds just yesterday. That particularly saturated called out to me, but I confess I didn’t think about and never would have thought about toothpick appetizers on a buffet table. I don’t know if these small cactus fruits are edible, like the tunas of the prickly pear.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2012 at 8:06 AM

  3. I’ve an Escobaria runyonii growing in my greenhouse window that has been with me for over 30 years. It has stayed very small all that time but each year produces white flowers with creamy yellow centers and bright red fruits like these…figures, it’s an Escobaria. I’d be very happy to live near wild cacti as do you..lucky.

    Steve Gingold

    April 20, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    • Thirty years: that’s a long time you’ve gotten to enjoy it. I don’t see Escobaria cacti very often, which is why I was happy to photograph this one. In contrast, prickly pear cacti are all over the place in central Texas, including on undeveloped plots of land in my neighborhood, so I get to see them just about every time I go out. There’s a wild one growing on a narrow strip of land bordering a street I drive on almost every day, and it was the first prickly pear that I saw putting out flowers this year. That happened less than a week ago, and now plenty more are flowering.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2012 at 7:38 PM

  4. I appreciate your posts. I can’t even keep a cactus alive.

    Sheila T Illustrated

    April 20, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    • I don’t know that I could keep a real cactus alive either, but I’ve had plenty of success keeping a photograph of one alive, and the cactus looks just as healthy in the photograph years later as it did when I took its picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2012 at 9:28 PM

  5. A beautiful Texas Christmas card!


    April 21, 2012 at 12:18 AM

  6. Hi. I wonder if the fruit is edible??? Jane

    jane tims

    April 22, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    • I don’t know, Jane, but even if they are, they’re so small, and there seem to be so few of them, that you’d hardly be able to have much of a feast. The larger and more numerous fruits of the prickly pear are another story.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 22, 2012 at 9:26 AM

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