Cactus & Succulent Society  of Greater Chicago

Did You Know?

What makes a cactus, a cactus and not just another prickly plant?


A cactus is the only succulent with the Areole structure which give rise to spines.

Areoles contain meristemic tissue (actively dividing cells) which, in addition to spines, also produces flowers, branches, roots. Regardless of the shape of the cactus, the spines will arise from the specialized areole structure.


The Prickly Pear Cactus is native to Illinois?!

Opuntia humifosa

In late June or early July, it's impossible to miss the large yellow wax paper like flowers of the prickly pear cactus. Many people find it hard to believe that this species is native in an area as humid as Illinois but they thrive anywhere there is full sun, and pure well drained sand.

As known as the 'devil's tongue', 'tuna pear' or 'Indian fig', the prickly pear grows in xeric sand prairie among associates including little bluestem grass, the last of which has an overlapping blooming period.

If you have pure sand in your garden, or can make a sand bed, prickly pear is an excellent plant for horticulture or xeriscaping. The site must receive full sun, the more the better, because leaf rot seems to be the main enemy of this succulent plant. It can be propagated from cuttings, and spreads fairly quickly. The spines are needle sharp and truly wicked, so be careful! This plant can quickly colonize a space if it is happy, and it produces edible, juicy red fruit after flowering. You might even say that it also grows its own toothpicks -- OUCH!


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