Isaiah 35:1-2 reads “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing:… they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.”
The wildflower for today reminds us of cacti that bloom in the desert as Isaiah wrote, “and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”
Prickly pear is in the cactus family, obviously. The 2- to 3-inch blooms appear on their own schedule from late spring to the end of summer. I have one patch that blooms early and another that waits until July. Once the flower withers, a fleshy fruit forms, turning reddish when ripe. These can be eaten but be sure to pinch off the tiny spiny tufts.
Prickly pear has both leaves and stems. The brown leaves are nearly microscopic. They can be found under the tufts that are at the base of the spines on the stems.
Wait! Don’t pull up the cactus to find the stem. The stem is the large flat-sided green “paddle” that has spines all over it. At the base of the spines are whitish and brownish tufts under which the leaves grow.
The east metro area is ideal for the prickly pear because of the sandy soil associated with our granite outcroppings. They can also be found in open rocky sites, both natural and manmade.
The prickly pear always causes my mind to wander back to when I first visited the arid areas of the West. I was fascinated by the stark contrast of sand and bare rocks to the rich green of cacti. The beautiful waxy blooms also contrasted sharply to the foreboding spines.
That first impression remains with me today because life is filled with both pain and joy, side by side. Our prickly pears are a constant reminder also that even in the midst of drought, the refreshing rain is not far away.
It is my prayer that from observing the prickly pear you will have a new appreciation for the extraordinary diversity of God’s creation and thus “see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.”