Here is a plant that I didn’t expect to find in the New Jersey pine barrens, the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa). There are apparently over 200 species of prickly pear cactus scattered thoughout the Americas. Here in New Jersey, the prickly pear produces large showy flowers that bloom for about a day. The oval fruits are red or red-purple which, when ripe and properly prepared, are edible.
Prickly pear cactus have been introduced in many places around the world where, unfortunately, it can spread as an invasive weed. I photographed this large specimen in the village of Malealea located in the highland kingdom of Lesotho, Africa. Attempts to eradicate the cactus have been almost completely unsuccessful, so the villagers attempt to manage plants by periodically cutting or burning them back.
Fortunately, prickly pear doesn’t grow so large in the pine barrens and is an interesting addition to the variety of plant life found here.