Thursday, February 16, 2017

Prickly Pear Pad Parade

The Prickly Pear cactus is a common low level inhabitant at Sabino Canyon.  Large stretches of the bahada are covered with them.  They are food for many desert mammals and can also produce  consumables for humans such as jams, juices, liquors, teas, medicines, etc. What I have noticed, as we walk on a more or less daily basis in the canyon, is an extraordinary variety of stages in their life cycle.  

I am not a scientist so we shall leave it to a simple explanation of why they are this way.  As the plant is stressed (eaten, squashed, uprooted or gets diseased or old), the chlorophyll in the pads disappears and the various other elements that have been obscured begin to show through. Each decaying pad seems to have a different pattern and its own beauty.

We start off with a mature and healthy pad.

Then some various stages of decay. There are blotches.

There are holes.
White can speckle the whole or move from the center out. 
The center can turn to a kind of yellowish tan

                                         In many cases the dominant color goes toward pink

And rarely we can find three colored pads. I have seen only two of them this year.

Finally the skin of the pad begins to erode to reveal the understructure

 just as in the saguaro.


 To some the desert seems lifeless, colorless, monotonous, but if you look you will see that it is as rich and varied as any other landscape. I know it keeps me looking and seeing new things as we walk each day.








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