Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

April Wildflowers

In April, things start to dry out quite a bit, and heat up, so we stop getting the variety of flowers that we get in the early spring. Mostly it’s time for the cacti to show off.

This one is a Pinkflower Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus fasciculatus):

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Here’s a nice close up:

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The real stars though, are the prickly pears:

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I’m going to call these Engelmann’s Pricklypear (Opuntia engelmannii). There are numerous varieties of prickly pear, and they interbreed pretty freely, so we mere humans can’t really keep up with species names. Identifying markers do not include flower color; mine are mostly yellow and sometimes orange, occasionally on the same plant.

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It’s also the case that the identifying markers are a matter of judgement: the “Dinner-plate” variety has really large pads (also called nopales, say “no-PAH-less”), but size can also be just due to the age of the plant. The “Santa Rita” variety tends to have a pinkish tinge to the nopales, but then again, in late winter all of the prickly pears have pinkish pads, due to the death of the cochineal bugs which bleed red dye all over the cactus.

[Fun Fact: Crushed cochineal bugs are a traditional source of non-toxic red dye. You’ve almost certainly eaten some yourself!]

I consider prickly pears a “weed”. By that I don’t mean that I actively go out with the intent of destroying them (unless they try to sneak into my garden, which they haven’t yet) — just that they grow wild everywhere. When I find one encroaching on one of the paths, I have no qualms about clipping off the offending nopal and throwing it as far as I can into the scrub, because I’m pretty sure that it will throw down roots and grow wherever it lands, hehe. Here are some now:

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They seem to go on forever.

Enough of that, here’s a rather unimpressive bush-let:

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I’m pretty sure this is Catclaw Acacia (formerly Acacia greggii, now Senegalia greggii). It’s supposed to be a tree, but none of mine even approach that condition. No matter, we all do what we can. Here are the flowers:

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So this little bush looks quite healthy, just a bit under-sized.

And lastly, another bush that flowered in April, and is making a bit of a show again at the end of July. I think this is a Turpentine Bush (Ericameria laricifolia (A. Gray) Shinners).

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It’s supposed to smell like turpentine when you crush the leaves, but if so, it’s very faint. Here are the flowers:

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It’s only supposed to flower in the fall, but like so many other plants here, this one flowers any time it feels it’s had enough water to make flowering worthwhile. The color is brilliant, and I’m happy any time it feels like flowering.

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7 thoughts on “April Wildflowers

  1. solarbeez on said:

    Nice pictures…
    Do you ever see any bees on the cacti flowers?

    • Yes, honeybees like the prickly pears. But they usually get up long before I do, so I haven’t got any pictures of them.
      Just yesterday, I saw a few miner bees (smallish, black-and-white) on a barrel cactus that’s an early-bloomer. (No camera, boo!) Those bees seemed nervous, and shooed me away. As soon as the barrels really get started, I’ll take the camera out miner-hunting. 🙂

  2. Beautiful. Can you eat any of them?

    • [LOL, read the next comment first]
      Ooh! I forgot — you can also eat the nopales! Get them while they’re young though, later they become woody and develop a chemical that is bad for humans.
      But if you get the young ones, burn off the spines & cut into strips. Garnish a salad with them or pickle them — feels like a pickled pepper in your mouth, and has a mild, cucumbery taste.

  3. Absolutely! And prickly pears are delicious! They taste like cinnamon apples, the flesh is like a plum, and they’re very seedy. Mine are small and purple; the yellow ones are bigger and less seedy. Also less cinnamony.
    They’re just getting ripe now, so I had one for my Lughnasadh feast yesterday. It’s the early-harvest or first fruits festival. Time to go out and get a bunch before the critters eat them all; I’ve been wanting to try making jelly. 🙂
    [reply to cmmarcum above]

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