Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two views of prickly pear cactus flowers

with 21 comments

From April 28th in my part of Austin come outer and inner flower views from a prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii. I’m happy to report that as of today these cacti are still putting out flowers.



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As someone who has worked in the field of race relations for twenty-five years, I am utterly amazed that advocacy for “race essentialism” has come to the forefront over the last decade. Race essentialism is the practice of ascribing character traits and experiences to individuals based on the color of their skin. Advocates justify this approach by highlighting how skin color has been used to oppress people in the past as well as in the present, and argue that recognizing one’s “race” is necessary in order to correct for racism and build a more equitable future.

So begins an article by Quay Hanna entitled “How talking to strangers on the bus changed my views on race.” The author had grown up as a white supremacist but came to realize how mistaken that ideology is.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2022 at 4:36 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Very pretty flowers. The ones in ca are also blooming.

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 10, 2022 at 8:53 AM

  2. Great shots, Steve.


    May 10, 2022 at 6:02 PM

  3. The flower in the first photo looks like silk; it’s wonderfully textured. And I’ve learned that one distinguishing feature of O. engelmannii is that green pistil that you’ve shown. Other species have green pistils as well, but in my area it helps to separate O. engelmannii from O. macrorhiza.

    The prickly pears were blooming massively everywhere I went last weekend: at least, from Hondo north to Fredericksburg. I’ve never seen so many; it probably was my timing as much as anything. On the Willow City loop, they were the primary source of color. The other plant that noticeable there was Stillingia texana. I remember the first time I saw that — on the loop, as a matter of fact — and you identified it for me. I knew what it was this time, but it sure can be a hard plant to photograph, given all that green.


    May 10, 2022 at 10:08 PM

    • Flash brought out the silkiness in the view of the outside. The natural-light photographs I also took offer noticeably less sheen. I’d thought of showing both but other than the sheen they look pretty similar, and I don’t like showing pictures that are too alike.

      For your sake, I’m glad the prickly pears where you traveled were putting on the same kind of show as here. Add them to the slew of rain lilies and no doubt remains your botanical weekend was a hit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 11, 2022 at 7:38 AM

      • And then there were the basketflowers…!


        May 11, 2022 at 7:41 AM

        • Ah yes, you did mention them. I’ve not seen any here yet so I should go to a few standard places and check. Strangely, basket-flowers are common in some of the suburbs here but barely put in an appearance in Austin proper.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 11, 2022 at 7:46 AM

  4. This happens to be native to Santa Barbara County!
    I happened to bring Opuntia humifusa back from Oklahoma. Opuntia macrorhiza lives in the same region of Oklahoma, but I do not believe that I saw it. (It has more prominent spines that I would have remembered.)


    May 11, 2022 at 2:06 AM

    • Thanks for calling that to my attention. I’d never have expected this species in Santa Barbara County, but now that I’ve looked at the range map I see it grows there and in several other California counties, as well as most of the ones in Arizona and New Mexico. The only states of the lower 48 without an Opuntia species seem to be Vermont and Maine.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 11, 2022 at 7:44 AM

      • A few species of Opuntia live in California, but I have met only two that I can remember, and I do not know their names. I suspect that one was Opuntia basilaris near Palm Springs in Riverside County, and that the other was Opuntia littoralis near San Luis Obispo. I may have met more, but did not distinguish them as distinct species.


        May 12, 2022 at 12:14 AM

  5. […] of the prickly pear cactus flowers there in other springtimes have displayed more red than I see in their Austin counterparts. The top picture shows that was true this year, too. In contrast to that red, look at all the […]

  6. The yellow against the black background just pops …


    May 18, 2022 at 2:46 PM

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