In my part of Texas, and in much of America, the Texas state cactus lives. It's not showy, but it's simple and essential. I want to write a brief paean to the prickly pear.
The prickly pear, a set of related species and varieties from the numerous and broad opuntia cacti, grows wild and free in north Texas. We don't have many cacti here, as we are just a bit north of their zone of comfort. In south and west Texas, all sorts of ocotillos and other succulent plants can be found. My nephew once found a cactus with his ankle down near Glen Rose. We found many spines to pull.
The prickly pear is prickly, and it has a fruit, something like a pear. When I was a kid, we had a modest red cabin near White Oak Lake. Behind that cabin, old wagon trails ran, trails perhaps as old as the Anglo incursion into that part of the world. Along those trails, one would pass substantial stands of prickly pear.
Most prickly pears are quite low on the ground, although in a patch of prickly pear they can grow rather large, somewhat like a shrub. Their virtue is hardiness.
Lately, some people suggest that prickly pears are a good hangover remedy, of all things. Others think they have some of those oxywhatever you call them that make your body all holistically wonderful. I don't have much truck with such theories about practical and impractical things.
I praise the prickly pear because it is a simple cactus that grows freely, and produces a gorgeous huge flower and an amazing fruit. Yo see, I believe that we are too quick to praise the esoteric and unworkable, when the practical and wonderful is before us every moment. Prickly pears are dependable, and their thorns are clearly conspicuous, never insidious. They handle the heat, they handle the cold, they handle the drought--heck, they even handle a little rain.
In my life, I've tended to undervalue the prickly pears and overvalue the hothouse orchids. But I'm changing my ways on this point.
I want to see a field of prickly pear in bloom on Saturday.