Opuntia – the only native New England cactus

26, Jun, 2014 Darrah Cole

Opuntia humifusa, or Eastern Prickly Pear is our only native cactus. It is surprising we have even one, and it is blooming right NOW on the Greenway.


The specimen on the Greenway is planted in the Wharf district – close to the art installation titled Harbor Fog. Our plant came as 5 single, rooted cuttings via Matt from Polly Hill Arboretum on Martha’s Vinyard.  It has settled in wonderfully. In the 3 years it has been growing it has flourished in the sunny, sandy location. It is in almost perfect conditions, enjoying the added heat from the granite seating wall.

Recently planted with other sharp drainage loving, heat seeking plants this small area is quite a contrast to the native meadow plants nearby. Small and diminutive, and very drought tolerant, these include Aster ericoides ‘Snow Flurry and, just this year, Sisrinchium ‘Lucerne.’ Contrasting these are the looser, wilder looking Penstemon digitalis ‘Red Husker (also blooming now) and Panicum virgatum and Hibiscus moshuetos.