Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Displaced prickly pear

with 13 comments

Prickly Pear Cactus Stranded in Tree 3791

When I visited McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin on March 13th, Onion Creek, which passes through the park, was tame, but the adjacent vegetation gave a different message, one of the creek having recently flowed through more rapidly, and tangles of debris in various trees bespoke a much higher level of water. Whether this ailing 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 can’t say.


I’m out of town for a few days. Feel free to leave comments, but it may take me a while to answer them.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2014 at 6:03 AM

13 Responses

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  1. That looks very high up!


    April 13, 2014 at 6:31 AM

    • As I recall, it was about 3m (9 ft.) up. That’s high, but I’ve seen prickly pear cacti growing that high in trees before. I’ve also seen evidence of flash floods that high in trees before.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2014 at 6:49 AM

      • Best not to be around when there is a flash flood!


        April 14, 2014 at 5:19 AM

        • Unfortunately not everyone heeds the warnings, and every year there are people who die in flash floods in Texas.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 14, 2014 at 8:50 AM

          • Ditto here. Perhaps not every year but people do get themselves in unnecessary difficulties.


            April 14, 2014 at 8:14 PM

  2. I’ll go with the deluge. Or a strong wind. I had one of these in my greenhouse years back.

    Steve Gingold

    April 13, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    • I hadn’t thought about wind, but I think it would’ve taken a stronger gale than anything we’d had.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2014 at 12:25 AM

  3. I’ve come across botanical oddities in the field like this, as well. It’s disturbing to see a plant so far from where it ought to be! Almost a relief when you can put it down to an event, such as a flash flood.


    April 14, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    • Of course the notions of where a plant “ought” to be are ours and not the plant’s, but in this case, from the bedraggled state of the cactus, I’d say it agrees with you.

      I was struck by the double meaning of your wording when you wrote “put it down to,” as if subconsciously you’d like to put the cactus back down onto the ground.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2014 at 8:55 AM

  4. “Flying Cactus”—good name for a country-grunge band? Discuss. 😉


    April 15, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    • Your mention of “flying cactus” and of a band reminded me of the Flying Burrito Brothers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 16, 2014 at 8:11 AM

  5. I’m betting on flood, myself, although that one green pad suggests at least the possibility the plant has taken some root in other debris that might be up there.

    I’ve had a “spineless” prickly pear for several years. It puts on a couple of new pads every year, but this year I decided something had to be done. I couldn’t repot it again, as it’s gotten too heavy because of repottings. So, I took a deep breath and broke off several pads. Now, I have sixteen new pads coming on the original plant, and every one of the repotted pieces has at least one new pad coming.

    The point being, I suppose, that however despondent this piece of prickly pear looks, the plant it came from may be thriving!


    April 17, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    • I’ve noticed that prickly pears are very hardy plants, and that even an isolated pad can hang on to life for a long, long time. Even when seemingly dead, it can still come back to life. Would that we were all as resilient.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2014 at 9:30 PM

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