Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 15 comments

This past April you got a look at the attractive flower of the prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii, and since August I’ve been seeing this species’ ripening fruits, known in Spanish as tunas. Here’s a closeup of a tuna that had turned a rich red by the time I photographed it on September 3 during the same session in the Bull Creek Preserve that brought you yesterday’s picture of prairie flameleaf sumac’s tiny fruits.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2012 at 6:13 AM

15 Responses

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  1. What beautiful authentic color you captured in this photo.


    September 27, 2012 at 6:18 AM

    • I think you’re the first person ever to have used the word authentic in a comment on this blog. Thanks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2012 at 6:37 AM

  2. I just took some similar pictures at Illinois Beach State Park yesterday! That is a fun coincidence. Here, oddly enough, you can find prickly pear growing next to moss. Go figure.


    September 27, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    • That is a coincidence, given that we’re so far apart geographically. I’m glad you got to enjoy your tunas, especially with moss. I don’t recall seeing that combination, but both grow here, so I’ll be on the lookout for the two together.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2012 at 1:23 PM

  3. How does a dangerous fruit with a funny name compete with mainstream market fruits?
    It sports a beautiful color! 😉
    Your photograph makes it look good enough to eat!
    ~ Lynda


    September 27, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    • Well, the name is funny to us but not to speakers of Spanish, in which language the name of the fish is different, atún, so there’s no confusion. Tunas as edible fruit are very common throughout Mexico—I ate my first one on a train there in the 1970s—and Hispanic markets in Austin sell tunas both with spines and without. Perhaps you can find one near you and give it a try.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2012 at 2:33 PM

      • Actually, I used to eat them off of my own cactus when I lived in Rialto, CA. We had a whole barricade of them along our back wall and along the arroyo. Then the cochineal invaded and killed them. 😦


        September 29, 2012 at 7:47 AM

        • I’m glad you had a chance to eat them in California, and off your own cactus, at that. I didn’t realize that cochineal could kill a prickly pear: it seems counterproductive to kill your host, but what do I know?

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 29, 2012 at 7:54 AM

          • They shrivel up, turn yellow, and then just fall to the ground. This was a massive infestation. The cacti were completely covered in gray and white residue. I thought the same thing, Steve. You would think that they would have a natural predator to keep them in check. Hm… The cochineal are farmed to make red food dye. Perhaps these were super GMO cochineal? 😉


            September 29, 2012 at 2:44 PM

  4. What a great photo of a tuna! And how fitting that Greater Tuna got its start right there in Austin. Even after I’d seen A Tuna Christmas, it was a while before I understood the town wasn’t named after a midwestern casserole!


    September 27, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    • Thanks for appreciating the photograph.

      For a long time I had the same reaction to the theatrical Tuna as you, thinking the name of the fictional town was a reference to the fish. But there are a whole lot more tuna fruits than tuna fish in Texas, so it makes sense that the place would be named after part of a prickly pear cactus. By the way, with regard to the fish, I found the following in Wikipedia:

      The term tuna derives from Latin ‘thunnus‘ and from Ancient Greek ‘θύννος‘ or ‘thunnos‘, from ‘θύνω‘ or ‘thunō‘, which means, “I rush, dart along”.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2012 at 7:59 PM

  5. We once tried making jelly out of these but took a wrong turn somewhere. Made pretty good candy though.


    September 27, 2012 at 10:50 PM

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