Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Money doesn’t grow on trees, they say

with 29 comments

Prickly Pear Growing in Bole of Live Oak 9453

Click for greater clarity.

They say that money doesn’t grow on trees, but in central Texas I occasionally find another green thing that does: the prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii. That was the case with this live oak, whose bole apparently held enough soil to allow the prickly pear to get a foothold, although the cactus didn’t seem to be having a great time when I photographed it on July 8th in Upper Purgatory Creek Park in San Marcos. The patches of bark on the tree strike me as rather reptilian, and I can imagine the bole being a large snake coiled around the cactus.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 15, 2013 at 6:18 AM

29 Responses

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  1. It’s a neat parallel to what so often happens in a nest, too. There’s always a dominant chick, and sometimes one doesn’t make it. These pads are in a rather nest-like environment, and it’s pretty easy to see which has assumed dominance and which has been shoved out!


    August 15, 2013 at 6:39 AM

    • That makes me think of the cowbirds around here.

      Good morning.

      Jim in IA

      August 15, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    • Ah, the survival of the fittest. Just last night on PBS we watched a program about pelicans in Australia. It seems the female always lays two eggs, and in the center of the continent in those rare years when there’s abundant rain, both chicks generally survive. On the east coast of Australia, however, where there’s paradoxically less food for the birds (because of competition for fish from humans, and for other reasons), the first-born chick often kills the younger one.

      Although prickly pears have spines, I think they’re less savage toward each other than those pelicans (even if not less savage toward me when I’m not careful).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM

  2. Steven, how does this cactus propagate? I know next to nothing about that kind of plant.

    Jim in IA

    August 15, 2013 at 6:45 AM

  3. This is a great capture! I love running across sights like this! At the Hallstrom Homestead (local historic house whose grounds we maintain) I’ve seen a full size Brazilian Pepper tree growing out of the coppiced stool area of an African Tulip tree. Quite an unusual sight when viewed from a distance!
    Thanks for sharing your find!


    August 15, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    • I’m glad you appreciate it, Karen. I’m obviously also fond of incongruous things like this (but not so fond that I didn’t remove some cedar elm seedlings that had recently started growing in the gutter of my roof). Did you post a picture of the strange sight you mentioned? If so, perhaps you can provide a link.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 15, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      • no I don’t have a pic but when I get over there at the end of the month I will def take one to share! 🙂


        August 15, 2013 at 2:47 PM

  4. Neat photo…looks like as good a place as any to get a foothold!


    August 15, 2013 at 12:55 PM

  5. I grow a few cactus plants and they really don’t require a lot of soil…at least not for a long time depending on species. Whether this bole pot can support an opuntia for long remains to be seen I guess.

    Steve Gingold

    August 15, 2013 at 1:42 PM

  6. Ce cactus a trouvé un bel endroit pour pousser mais c’est assez incroyable! j’adore!


    August 16, 2013 at 4:53 AM

  7. This one is another that I particularly liked. Not to mention the on the money title (so to speak).

    Susan Scheid

    August 28, 2013 at 9:11 PM

  8. […] prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii, was already growing in the tree before the deluge—yes, such things are possible—or whether the flood uprooted it from elsewhere and deposited it in these bare branches, I […]

  9. Perhaps the reason for its sad state resides in the name of its location, Upper Purgatory Creek Park.


    April 13, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    • I think you’ve got it: that must be the reason.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2014 at 6:43 AM

      • 😀


        April 13, 2014 at 6:47 AM

        • By the way, perhaps I should have added a footnote to the first sentence explaining that all denominations of paper currency in the United States are green, as opposed to the bills of some (many?) other countries, in which each denomination is distinctively colored.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 13, 2014 at 7:13 AM

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