What Is It?

  • My stems look like paddles.
  • My leaves are mere bumps.
  • My spines foil pickers …
  • … who still spread my stickers

The eastern prickly pear’s thick pads are actually flattened stems. Tiny, soft, cone-shaped bumps on new pads are the cactus’s true leaves. At the base of each leaf bump, spines and tiny, hairlike bristles form. These make it hard for animals and people to pick the cactus’s yellow flowers and juicy red fruits. At the same time, bristles stick to feet and fur, helping spread the cactus to dry, desertlike places statewide. Learn more at mdc.mo.gov/field-guide.


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