Desert Lace

lacepear detailpear detail 2These beautiful patterns are what is left after cactus pads have weathered away, showing their inner structure.  I have been trying to find information on how they form and grow, to no avail.  I would love to know if these fibers grow parallel to each other, and then split, or if they somehow grow with the gaps in place.  Do these structures carry water and food to all parts of the plant?  Or do they just provide a framework to keep the plant upright?  WHY DON’T I HAVE A CACTUS BOOK?

Alright, for now we will just admire their intricate patterns, and if I learn more about their growth, I will let you know.

pear structureAnd just in case you’re not familiar with the plant these come from, here it is below.  That one may be a slightly different species, because it is from Big Bend National Park on the Mexican border, but it is essentially the same plant as the one that left these.

Prickly Pear, Opuntia engelmannii

Prickly Pear, Opuntia spp.