Saturday, December 28, 2013

Prickly Pear Cactus and the Mexican-American War

Opuntia

Prickly Pear cacti (genus Opuntia) are fairly uncommon in the hills of San Diego County in the native coastal sage scrub habitat. Evidently they are harder to identify than Empidonax flycatchers. My best guess is that these are Western Prickly Pear (O. occidentalis). However they may also be Coast Prickly Pear (O. littoralis). They could also be a hybrid between these and/or other species. It doesn't help that Wikipedia doesn't even recognize O. occidentalis. Perhaps the cacti expert on Wikipedia thinks that it the same as O. engelmannii, which goes by about a dozen common names (Cow Tongue Prickly Pear, Desert Prickly Pear, Texas Prickly Pear, Engelmann's Prickly Pear, etc.).

The photo above was taken at San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park, about 5 miles SE of Escandido. The name is bigger than the park that commemorates a nasty battle in 1846 in the Mexican-American War. Unless you count stealing Texas from Mexico, the only good thing that I can see that came from this war was the creation of this little park where there is at least one Cactus Wren that I saw on December 8th.