Rock outcrops are hot, dry, inhospitable places, but some of the most beautiful flowers hang out there. Here’s Opuntia humifusa, our native cactus, blooming on what seems like an isolated stretch of sandstone right in the center of campus. According to the TN Native Plant Society , “other names for this plant include Barberry, Devil’s Tongue, and Old Man’s Hand. It is also called Indian Fig because of the edible fruits. The young, tender pads can be peeled and cooked like green beans, while the pulp of the pads can be used to make candy and syrup. The broken-off joints are sometimes used by Eastern Woodrats to protect their nests. This species is the only native cactus in Tennessee.”
Opuntias are pollinated by many types of insects, but they are really structured to attract bees. Look closely in the flower and you’ll see a hungry predator waiting for an unwary pollinator!