Friday, July 10, 2009

Cactaceae of Indiana

That's right, folks, I am going to tackle the entire family Cactaceae within the entire state of Indiana in this post. Here in the Hoosier State, we have exactly one known species of cactus found growing naturally, this being Opuntia humifusa. Hey, that's not bad for a state that receives approximately 41 inches of precipitation per year.

Eastern Prickly Pear has enormous yellow flowers with numerous petals many stamens. These flowers form at the top of fleshy, spiny "pads," and persist for only one day, after which they develop into fleshy, tasty (though spiny) fruit. These fruit are eaten by a variety of wildlife species, and the seeds are spread after going through the animal's digestive system. The pads of Opuntia humifusa can break off and root, therefore the plant spreads by vegetative reproduction as well.

Eastern Prickly Pear is most often found in sandy or rocky soil, in full sun or partial shade. It can withstand a substantial amount of disturbance, as it is sometimes found in mowed fields and along railroads. According to Deam, this species is also found in friable clay soil in southeast Indiana.

Opuntia humifusa flowers from June through July. It is found from Montana and New Mexico east to Massachusetts and Florida.

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