Range/Geographical Distribution: The eastern and mid-western United States from Massachusetts south to Florida, west to New Mexico, and north to Ontario, Canada.
Habitat: Rocky or sandy, well-drained soil.
Description: Green, flattened, segmented stems or “pads” are paddle shaped and covered in bristles and long spines.
Size: Can grow to two feet high and four feet wide.
Breeding: Produces waxy yellow flowers three inches long in the spring. Green, two to three inch fruits then form and turn pink/purple in the fall when they are ripe.
Predators/Ecological Function: Hummingbirds and bees visit the flowers of the prickly pear.
Conservation Status: Listed as endangered or rare in some northeastern states.
Interesting Facts: Prickly pear pads are edible and can be peeled, chopped, sautéed, or diced. They are said to taste similar to green beans. The pads will also root easily to start a new plant.
On the Coast: This cactus lives in sandy areas along Georgia’s coast. Watch out when hiking through these areas because prickly pear spines can reach one inch in length and are very sharp.