In praise of spines
Opuntia ursina at Timberline
Any fool can love a prickly pear in bloom: they are unspeakably lovely in flower. But the general run of people find the form of the plants strange--even repellent. I maintain they are an acquired taste. I adore the sumptuous flowers in early summer (and applaud Kelly Grummons for beginning to hybridize reblooming prickly pears). But I enjoy the stem shapes and colors almost as much--and for a much longer period of time than their fleeting flowers. Here are a few of my favorite Opuntias (and Cylindropuntias, to be pedantic!)
Cylindropuntia davisiae 'Golden Lion'
Two cane chollas have proved extremely cold hardy as well as spectacular in their spines: This Golden cholla of the Chihuahuan desert is a show stopper summer or winter.
Opuntia aurea 'Chocolate Princess'
Kelly Grummons crossed two forms of O. aurea to produce this amazingly colored prickly pear that stays quite dark even in summer!
Cylindropuntia whipplei 'Snow Leopard'
Possibly the most vivid species is this cane cholla from northern Arizona is this white wonder. Also very easily grown.
Opuntia clavata and Opuntia fragilis (forma)
Almost as glistening a white, this creeping Opuntia (sometimes classed as Grusonia) is found primarily between Santa Fe and Albuquerque in New Mexico. It is painful to manhandle, but vigorous once established. Notice the brilliant contrast with the fragilis behind.
Opuntia 'Coral Carpet'
Opuntia phaeacantha 'Paradox'
And finally Opuntia trichophora in its shaggy wonder...Now can you see why opuntia lovers are as fond of the stems and habit as we the magical flowers! You too could get stuck on them!