Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers Dot the Desert Landscape

Yellow prickly pear cactus flower in the morning sun.

Having lived in different areas of the southwest, it’s safe to say that Prickly Pear cactus are rather ubiquitous within the desert landscape. And perhaps the most familiar and recognizable. With their wide, branching, paddle-like leaves and nubby spines, they’re like the desert locals. Hanging out low to the ground and in clusters.

Apparently they are also known as nopal cactus or paddle cactus. Nopales is the term used for the edible cactus leaves that come from Prickly Pear cactus. Not only can the leaves be eaten, but they also produce juicy red fruits. These little buggers appear to develop a while after the flowers die and ripen around September. The fruits, like the pads can be eaten raw or cooked and used for jams and jellies.

Beautiful Flower Blooms

Now that we’ve gotten some trivia out of the way, let’s talk about the beautiful Prickly Pear cactus flowers the plants produce!!

Until this photography journey, I more or less acknowledged them from a far. But that has since changed to a genuine appreciation of the pretty flowers blooming among their spiny paddles. They have caught my attention much like the bright red Claret Cup cactus flowers that I adore.

peach colored prickly pear cactus flowers
Peach colored Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers.

In the low-growing clusters that make up the Prickly Pear plants, they can certainly spread out. This can make them challenging to photograph as often the flower I have my eye on photographing is in the middle of the proverbial crowd! So I look for the ones the outskirts.

It’s fascinating that you can walk around the gardens in early morning and see the little flower buds – knowing they’re getting ready to open. And if you’re patient and come back a bit later, you’ll be welcomed to an opening Prickly Pear cactus flowers!! It’s like Nature unwrapped a precious gift all on its own.

Coming in Various Colors

yellow and peach prickly pear cactus flowers
Yellow and peach Prickly Pear cactus flowers.

Coming in various shades of yellows, pinks, white, peach and even multi-colored, come early June the begin to bloom. Wit the their waxy-like flower petals, they warm up and patiently open to morning sun. at the right angle, the flower petals on the peach and yellow colored ones almost appear translucent.

My observation of their bloom cycle is that the darker magenta pink ones tend to bloom first. Then the lighter colored ones flower thereafter. It’s really cool when some of the cactus plants have different colored flowers blooming from them. One plant I discovered had both pale yellow and the peachy-colored ones that I love. Another plant had two-tone flowers. A pale yellow with the inside that was a fiery red color. Much as I tried, I could not get a good photo of these. But I’ll try again next season!

Like other low-growing cactus plants, I gotta get up close and personal to capture the photos. This again requires lying on the ground. But it’s worth it! Even folks walking by appreciate my endeavors. I tried using a tripod but found it more cumbersome. I suspect this is part and partial to my lack of experience in using one.

Bring On the Bees!

To say that bees go crazy for Prickly Pear cactus flowers is an understatement. I mean they LOVE them!! As the flowers warm up and open to the morning sun, the bees dive in. Often they become completely covered in pollen. You can literally see all the pollen dots on their body.

bee straddling two prickly pear flowers
A precarious balance – bee dotted with pollen straddling two yellow Prickly Pear cactus flowers.

Sometimes it looks like they get drunk on the pollen. Perhaps they get too tired after all their busy work, that some just hang out in the flowers for a while – like in the photo below. Aptly captioned, “Bee takes a Spa Day”.

Bee takes a "Spa Day" inside prickly pear flower.
Bee takes a “Spa Day” inside this pink Prickly Pear cactus flower.

While some bees just dive in head first, others gently hover above the prickly pear flowers scouting for the perfect spot. When the flowers are in their blooming prime for the season and the mornings warm up, it can get a little crazy with the bees. By then it’s time for both me and my camera to step aside and give them their space 🙂

honey bee hovering over peach colored prickly pear flower
Honey bee hovering over peach colored Prickly Pear cactus flower.

Feel inspired? Please share...