Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Small grasshopper on prickly pear cactus by ripening tuna

with 16 comments


Place: greenbelt along the upper reaches of Bull Creek.

Date: September 12.

Reminder: tuna is the Spanish (and now English) name for the fruit of the prickly pear cactus.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 30, 2016 at 5:14 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Haha Steve, you nearly made me jump 😁😁😁😁 for a second I really believed that grasshopper was for real. Trick of brilliant photography. Well done.


    September 30, 2016 at 5:28 AM

    • Sorry if I startled you. The grasshopper would do you no harm, but the cactus spines might.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 30, 2016 at 6:34 AM

  2. It never occurred to me that a little creature like this would find a cactus spine a congenial perch, but it looks right at home. The two spines that it’s clinging to seem to be missing their points. I wonder if it’s been gnawing on them?

    I’ve never seen so many combinations of maroon and chartreuse as I have this fall. This is an especially pleasing one — it’s a wonderful background for the grasshopper.


    September 30, 2016 at 5:29 AM

    • It was the tuna that called me over, and then I noticed the small grasshopper nestled among the spines. Do grasshoppers eat them? I have no idea, and a cursory search didn’t turn up anything relevant.

      Glad to hear you’re finding plenty of maroon and chartreuse this season. Speaking of colors in the purplish part of the spectrum, two days ago I found my first Liatris flowering on the prairie. I’d been wondering when I’d finally see some.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 30, 2016 at 6:42 AM

      • I thought I’d been seeing some anemic Liatris mucronata, until I discovered I was seeing a different species: Liatris acidota: sharp blazing star, or sharp gayfeather. It seems to be a coastal prairie plant; the USDA doesn’t show it in your area. And now I’ve remembered Liatris pycnostachya, which you found in Missouri. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that, too.


        September 30, 2016 at 7:01 AM

  3. I have several cactus plants that go outdoors for the summer and inevitably some insect skewers itself on a cactus spine. Obviously, your grasshopper knows its way around a cactus better than our eastern species.

    Steve Gingold

    September 30, 2016 at 5:39 AM

    • I don’t recall ever seeing an insect skewered on a cactus spine. Do you know how that happens? In searching for an answer to Linda’s question (above), I came across this: “Butcher birds, more correctly called loggerhead shrikes, are hunters with a bizarre habit. They like to store insects, small mammals, reptiles, birds and other ‘prey of the day’ by impaling them on sharp objects — hence the morbid nickname.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 30, 2016 at 6:45 AM

      • I have only arrived after the fact so haven’t witnessed an active skewering. I would guess clumsiness since we have no butcher birds (I had read that about their storage hijinks before). Most of my cacti are densely covered (mammillarias and notocactus) which might have something to do with it.

        Steve Gingold

        September 30, 2016 at 6:50 AM

        • I wouldn’t think an insect is heavy enough to impale itself on a cactus spine, unless maybe it accidentally flew into one at full speed.

          I can’t resist pointing something out: it’s not true that a notocactus is not a cactus.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 30, 2016 at 7:27 AM

  4. The fruit is not the only edible part. The fleshy green parts are common fare in Mexico and the southern states. The spines are burned off first, of course. It’s called nopal or nopalitos and is quite delicious, especially for breakfast wth bacon and eggs.


    October 1, 2016 at 11:28 AM

    • Right you are. I find nopalitos rather bland, which is why people eat them with other things. Austin has plenty of Latino supermarkets that carry nopalitos, both fresh and canned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 1, 2016 at 2:32 PM

  5. Wonderful .. Love the colours popping in the background 😃


    October 4, 2016 at 3:17 AM

    • It was the color of the cactus fruit that attracted me, and then I saw the little grasshopper.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 4, 2016 at 5:18 AM

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