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Native Plant of the Week: Eastern Prickly Pear

Family: Cactaceae


Name: Opuntia humifusa - Eastern Prickly Pear


Bloom Time: June


Flower: Yellow (sometimes with an orange center)


Soil Condition: Dry, Sandy


Light: Sun


Height: 4-12" tall by 12-36" wide


Native Range: Eastern United States including Long Island


Zone: 4 - 9


Photos: Flowers (KMS Native Plants), Growth habit (Douglas Goldman, USDA, CC BY-NC 4.0)


Our native cactus, Eastern Prickly Pear (yes, I said cactus), is a great conversation starter in the dry, sunny garden. It will also tolerate being flooded by high tide along our shores. It has spines but beware of the glochids. These are the tiny, barbed hairs on the pads and are almost impossible to get out of your skin (double-sided tape works well). Wear very thick gloves and use tongs to move plants. It is great in a container and makes a great houseplant. It does 'deflate' in the winter making it look dead but don't worry it will return to normal when the weather warms up.

Maintenance: None unless you want to thin out the plants


Benefits: Pollinators, edible fruit, deer and rabbit resistant, highly salt tolerant


Fun Facts: I've never eaten the fruits, but I have had prickly pear and eggs in Mexico. Yum!


Companion Plants: Prunus maritima - Beach Plum, Baccharis halimifolia - Groundsel Bush, Solidago sempervirens - Seaside Goldenrod, Ammophila breviligulata - American Beach Grass, Panicum virgatum - Switch Grass


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