Prickly Pear Cactus boasts Abundant Pollinators and Sharp Spines!

That bright yellow cactus plant you see blooming in the sandy areas of South Carolina is the southern Prickly Pear, Opuntia humifusa.  The yellow blooms only last a day, so we set up a timelapse camera to see if we could capture them opening.  Unlike our primrose species and Seaside Mallow which also bloom for just a day, the prickly pear doesn’t open right away in the morning~ it takes a few hours and opens closer to lunchtime.  (Though my kids wouldn’t call that sleeping in!)


We find it growing low along the dunes and in this big patch near the marsh..

Beyond pollinators, there are some reports that raccoons and gopher tortoises like to eat the fleshy pads. I thought the amount of pollen in each blossom was incredible, and there were sweat bees, tiny hoverflies, bumble or carpenter bees, and tons of other tiny inhabitants.

Impressive Spines

There are also some pretty impressive spines: large ones that are easily visible, but some really tiny ones as well.

Flowers that have finished blooming take on an orange hue.