Prickly Pear Cactus with Their Colorful Blooms

Two yellow prickly pear cactus flower blooms

With their distinctive broad, green paddles, Prickly Pear cactus plants are iconic fixtures in the desert southwest summer landscape. They take up residence in mighty dry conditions and thrive.

Appearing rather dormant for most of the year, come late May you can see the plants budding. Given room to roam, these cactus plants can spread happily. Thus they can be covered with dozens of flower buds ready to bloom.

Waiting patiently, by late June or right around the beginning of summer, the buds burst with their beautiful flowers in shades of yellows and peach. With camera in tow, I welcome the opportunity for photo ops. One needs to pay attention to their long, white, spiny accoutrements . A reminder that it’s necessary for me have to keep a “safe” distance when photographing them.

Sun Lovers with Translucent Flower Petals

Yellow cactus flower close-up.

Their desert digs suit them perfectly as Prickly Pears are sun lovers for sure. As I tend to get to the gardens early in the morning, often the flowers have yet to open. They need to be coaxed by the morning sun to unfold. And when they do, it’s a beautiful thing.

If you are patient enough, you can sit and watch them slowly greet the morning sun. Doing so keeps you in the present moment and it’s magical.

As they unfold, the flower petals often appear translucent. They are thick and somewhat waxy looking – but the sun makes them glimmer.

If I can get close enough to the flowers, the angles can yield some cool shots.

Black Knight Prickly Pears – A New Discovery…

Most of the prickly pear cactus plants I’ve come across are your usual green color – with shades of yellows, oranges flowers. However, this year I discovered the name of a different variety of Prickly Pear plant. With their more purple colored flat paddles, I learned they are called Black Knight Prickly Pears.

What makes them even more unique is unlike their conventional brethren, they have buds which are a purple color that give way to magenta pink flowers! They are big, bright and beautiful!! The other thing about this particular variety is that they tend to bloom sooner than the others. Perhaps that’s just the timing of my observations – but they do seem to get blooming sooner.

No complaints here if they get a head start!! Given the bees go crazy on these flowers, I’m sure they’re pretty happy about it too!

Black Knight prickly pear cactus plant with buds.
Black Knight Prickly Pear with its purple paddles and buds above. Its magenta flower blooms to the right.
Magenta pink Black Knight prickly pear cactus flowers.

Bees LOVE Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers!!

Bee inside yellow prickly pear cactus flower.
Bee gathering pollen inside yellow prickly pear cactus flower.

As already noted, bees really do go crazy for prickly pear cactus flowers. I mean there is a serious frenzy when they bloom! Sometimes you can see two or even three bees vying for position in a particular flower. They dive deep into the flower – literally immersing themselves and become completely dotted with pollen. It’s quite a thing to observe.

Some just hang out in the flowers. Perhaps they get a pollen high? Others look like they may even sleep in the flowers. Sometimes you can see their little head peaking out of a flower as it’s getting ready to open.

Bee poking its head out of a prickly pear flower.
Bee poking its head out of a prickly pear cactus flower getting ready to open.
Bees on magenta Black Knight prickly pear flower.
A bee inside a magenta Black Knight prickly pear flower with another coming in for a landing!!

What a gift it is to be an observer into their world. I’m always mindful to give them the “right of way”. So when I’m lucky enough to come away with a few good photos, I’m grateful beyond words 🙂

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