Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for September 23rd, 2013

A self-inflicted wound

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Prickly Pear Cactus Spine Piercing Tuna 5069

Click for greater size and clarity.

The last post reminded you that the fruits of the prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmanniii, which turn a rich red when they ripen at this time of year, are known as tunas. The tuna shown here was unusual because as it increased in size it had touched, and then gotten pierced with, the tip of a spine from a nearby pad of the same plant. How much of the interaction was due to the spine’s growth as well, I don’t know, but I’m reminded of another strange feat of prickly pear penetration I encountered and presented here this past January.

Another reminder is in order: the many little spines that surround the base of the large ones are called glochids. These tiny spines are the more insidious ones because when you bump up against them they pull out in bunches, go right into your skin, and are hard to remove. As I wrote last year: once glochided, twice shy.

Today’s photograph of a self-inflicted wound—thankfully the cactus’s this time, not mine—comes from an August 22nd jaunt to the west of Morado Circle in my Great Hills neighborhood.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2013 at 6:03 AM

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