….if there’s a letter and an IV. I planted cactus around my mailbox. Now you look like a case of smallpox.
You’d better wait a minute, wait a minute, oh yeah…..
Grumpians, ever since I saw this scene across the street from my friend, Jeff, I couldn’t wait to show you. Ever get mad when your National Geographic gets torn or you get all your neighbor’s spanking magazines by mistake? (I hope it was a mistake.) This is how you get even.
Meet prickly pear cactus (Opuntia compressa), the most widespread cactus in America and as far as I know, also the cold-hardiest. It will grow in south Florida, west Texas, the Nevada desert, and even in Canada. I’ll never forget the time I was touring the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (a great place — don’t miss the chance to see it if you’re visiting) in winter and spied plain, old prickly pear cactus peaking out from beneath the snow.
Prickly pear gets its name from two features. The first is the tufts of barbed, hairlike spines, called glochids, that cover its flattened pads. Glochids detach on contact, remaining in your flesh to torture you as long as possible. The second is the pearlike, 2-inch long, edible fruits that turn reddish-purple when they ripen. Showy yellow flowers precede the “pears” in early summer. Flower buds are just forming on the plant above.
It wasn’t until I carefully perused the Hispanic food section of our local Wal-Mart that I discovered that not only are the fruits consumed in Mexico, so are the pads. While I’m sure the pads are delicious, I prefer food that’s as spineless as I am.
A lot of people plant prickly pear to add a “desert touch” to their garden for some unexplainable reason. Why stop there? Complete the picture with some big rocks, a rusted out auto body, a couple of scorpions, and a “Next Gas 100 Miles” sign.
Few plants are as easy to grow. All it needs is sun and well-drained soil — either moist or dry. A clump can eventually grow 4 feet tall and twice as wide. Dual methods of reproduction are why it grows almost everywhere. One method is having seeds spread when animals eat the fruits. The other and more insidious method is vegetative. Every once in a while, a pad will break off, fall to the ground, and root. Or perhaps an animal will carry off a pad and drop it, where it will root. Either way, prickly pear quickly traverses the landscape. In many places, it’s considered an invasive weed.
If you have no need to punish your thoughtful, dedicated postal worker (“Neither rain or snow or wind or spines of prickly pear will keep us from our appointed rounds.”), there is another good place to plant it, especially if break-ins have been a problem for you. Plant it under all of your windows. The Grump guarantees no one will enter your house that way again.