Prickly pear cacti are native to the Americas, and are identifiable by their flattened stems and sharp spines. Though there are about 200 species of prickly pear worldwide, only 2 species are native to Michigan, including, Opuntia cespitosa (shown here) and Opuntia fragilis. Prickly pear cacti are able to tolerate sandy soils, and low water conditions.
The fruits of prickly pear can attract a diverse range of birds, which help distribute seeds. The shallow root system of the prickly pear enables it to grow in loose, shallow soil, and it can spread over time to form colonies. Roots can form a natural filtration system for water that finds its way into rain garden basins.
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