Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus 
Opuntia humifusa


The Prickly Pear Cactus has acquired many adaptations to survive in the environment that it does. Because it is a low growing, brightly colored plant, it has sharp spines on its pads to protect it from predation. This particular plant is a perennial plant. This means that it grows and blooms in the spring and summer and "dies" in the winter and fall, growing back again in the   next season. Advantages of being a perennial plant are that it does not have to deal with the harsh conditions of winter, especially the ones here in Wisconsin. Click here to learn about another perennial plant, Alfalfa.
    The Prickly Pear grows best when it gets a lot of sunshine. If it is in a shaded region it will not grow well at all. It also likes dry, sandy soils that are rich in phosphorus. Due to living in a rather arid environment, it must possess water storage mechanisms. Excess water is usually stored in the pads of the cactus until it is needed. In addition, it has a waxy cuticle covering its pads to prevent desiccation. To learn more about where this plant grows, visit the Habitat page of this site.