Sunday, 14 March 2010

Macro Monday - Don't Pick the Prickly Pear by the Paw......


It would appear that I am now one year older, but none the wiser. Being 28, again, is getting a little tiresome. Still, one thing that I have learnt is that you should never pick the prickly pear by the paw - just look at how many spines cover the surface of the succulent leaves of the prickly pear cactus. And have a look at the interesting effect of removing all colour from the photo except for the reds. As you can see, I am still messing about with Photoshop.


And since I seem to find it nearly impossible to write a post without some educational content, let's end with a few interesting facts about the prickly pear cactus. This particular one was photographed on one of the Galapagos Islands. On some of the islands, these cacti are fairly small and grow low to the ground. These islands tend to be wetter and more fertile and their resident tortoises have large domed shells which prevent the tortoise from stretching its head up very high - with all the food nice and low down, he doesn't have to. However, on some of the drier islands, the prickly pears grow into large "trees", with strong trunks holding their pad-like leaves well off the ground. On these islands, the resident tortoises have evolved saddle-shaped shells that allow them to stretch their heads up high to reach the lower cactus leaves. On all of the Islands, the prickly pear provides an important food source for many of the animals, not just the tortoises, inlcuding nectar for many of the islands different finch species.


The prickly pear is native to all of the Western hemisphere and is one of the most northern, cold tolerant species of cacti, managing to survive all the way into British Columbia, Canada. All prickly pear cacti belong to the genus Opuntia and they can make a tasty treat for humans as well as animals. To be honest, I might be lying here. I do know that you can eat various parts of the plant, but since I have never tried any part, I cannot say for sure that any part is actually tasty. Still, you can always give it a go. You can eat the fruits or the young leaf pads, but you will probably want to make sure that all of the spines have been removed first! In Mexico, the fruit is commonly called tuna, but I suspect that if I called "tuna" and my cats came running they would not be best pleased if I offered them catus fruit! The Mexicans and some South Americans also make use of the prickly pear to cultivate scale insects, from which red cochineal dye is produced.



And finally, since it seems to me that I cannot learn about anything biological without Mr. Charles Darwins' name popping up, I might as well tell you that he discovered that these cacti have thigmotactic anthers. That is just a fancy way of saying that their anthers (male bits that produce pollen), move when you touch them. Oooh eerr, missus! I think that I will say no more about male bits moving when you touch them.........

For more Macro Monday, go here.

16 comments:

Sistertex said...

Happy Birthday!!!

I will remember from here on out not to pick the Prickly Pear by the paw...I promise!

Great photos as always and equally as great information. I always learn things from your post. Hope you enjoy(ed) your birthday!

Kala said...

Great detail of the Prickly Pear!

Cortes said...

Another educational post with great photos. I really like the closeup with the finch and the flower.

And I do seem to have an affinity for Mr. Darwin's thingamabobs as well. So, all in all, very entertaining. All things improve with age.

Jay said...

Hahahaha! Love that last sentence! ROFL! Yes, best leave that one well alone, huh?

Interesting .. I didn't know they were that hardy - all the way to BC? Wow. And I didn't know that tortoises would eat them. I guess that like camels they have thornproof mouths.

I like your educational content! :D

jay said...

Oh yeah, and I love both of those photos!!

patti said...

Love the prickly pear! Great shots.
Did you sing the song from the Jungle Book when you typed that? :)

Don't Bug Me! said...

Sistertex: Good - you have to use the claw!

Kala: A prickly subject that was easy to get close to.

Cortes: All things? I guess the wrinkles are definitely improving!

Jay: Yep, B.C. lays claim to having the only desert in Canada. Unfortunately it is shrinking rapidly due to the development of orchards and vineyards.

Patti: Yes, yes I did. I have been humming it all day, which is OK, since it is one of my favourite movies.

Moon said...

"Look for the Bear Necessities.........."

Couldn't help myself ..

Did you get our card ?

Don't Bug Me! said...

Moon: Not yet, but you have to remember that Canada Post is useless! Or are you just asking to try and make me think that you actually sent a card?

MyMaracas said...

Happy Birthday!

Loved all the information in your post. I've just discovered that prickly pear is great for diabetes and is the only cactus that will grow here in Indiana, so I'm looking for some to plant in my veggie patch this year.

Those spines look formidable, but they make a great macro. I love the second one, with the color effect. Nice work!

Baino said...

Happy, happy birthday! Of course I missed it . .I miss everyone's. And I think I'd move if you tickled my anthers!

dutchbaby said...

Fantastic birthday post! I've been to the Galapagos Islands and I would like to commend for that beautiful shot with the finch. I ended up with lots of shots of where birds used to be before they flew away.

dutchbaby said...

Happy belated birthday!

Don't Bug Me! said...

MyMaracas: Thank you - I did read something about it being good for diabetics, but I would be a bit careful. Apparently, you have to get the right species and there is some evidence that it can cause kidney problems.

Baino: I tend to miss them too - but better late than never!

Dutchbaby: Thank you - I have lots of photos like that too!

Ribbon said...

Happy belated birthday to you and thank you for this fascinating post... awesome photos too.

best wishes
Ribbon

3月 said...

凡走過必留下痕跡!不留言對不起你!........................................