Last spring, I added a native species to my garden, an Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa). A cactus that is native to Ontario? Yes, it’s true! Opuntia humifusa, one of about 200 opuntia species, is native to the southernmost reaches of the province. Native populations can still be found in Point Pelee National Park and in Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve on Pelee Island. Opuntia humifusa is listed as hardy to Canadian Zone 5 (USDA 4).
I was very pleased that my cactus over-wintered well and looked bright and healthy this spring. It is growing with an unidentified sedum, which bloomed earlier this spring, and donkey-tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) to its right. This weekend, I was very excited to see its first two flowers. They were lovely, soft yellow blooms, a couple of inches across. Several additional flowers are still developing.
Parks Canada describes Eastern Prickly Pear thus:
The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) is a perennial, low-spreading, succulent cactus with jointed, rounded, but flattened, green stems measuring 5 to 12 cm in length. Stem segments are fleshy or firm, and sparsely covered with clusters of barbed bristles and spines. It occurs in small patches or large, scattered colonies of thousands of stems.
Like many other plants and animals, Opuntia humifusa has been under siege from human activities and has joined an ever-increasing list of endangered species in Ontario. As such, an official “recovery plan” has been developed for Opuntia humifusa and you can read it for yourself at the Ministry of Natural Resources website, linked here.
Unfortunately, as the need for better protection of our biological heritage increases, our government agencies are failing to respond. On the contrary, the federal Conservatives have acted belligerently to undo the limited environmental protection that did exist in a blinkered vision of Canada as a haven for unfettered resource development. To add insult to injury, the provincial Liberals are currently moving to “streamline” environmental legislation. We are failing to protect the interests of future generations of all living things, including humans.