Cacti Make the Best Margaritas!

You know it was a good margarita when the next morning you wish you’d had another. Prickly Pear on the rocks, no salt. Thank you Texas, for this divine treat.

Exploring the desert of West Texas, the bounty of cactus varieties and beauty has been stop-worthy. I’ve pulled over to the side of the road, wandered into “fields,” been pricked through my jeans and into my leg, causing me to indelicately reach into my pants–in public–to remove the offending spikes. I became obsessed, taking nearly 300 photos of cactus breeds. Lucky you, they’ve been culled and edited.

the lengths I go to for pics

The lengths, highs and lows I go to for pictures

A Language All Their Own

The vocabulary makes me smile, and sometimes snort. Prickly pears have “pads”; Lechuguilla are “wickedly erect.” Ah science, for once you’re straightforward.

Why Spikes?

It’s everyone for themselves in the desert–although presumably in a forest, too. But with little water, you can’t spare your leaves for the passing critter to consume. Plus, leaves waste water. So spikes it is. But that doesn’t deter the javelina, an animal who eats spikes and all in one gulp.

Prickly Pear

The one that knocked me down with alcohol and spikes. The pads feel like silly putty. They come with spikes and without, but even the without have a prickle; green or purple; white spikes or orange. And that’s just what I saw…

prickly pear

Cholla (AKA Walking Stick)

It grows to 5-6 feet tall, with each “joint” up to 12 inches long. When it dies and dehydrates, the skeleton is made into a walking stick. Hence, the AKA name. Deer eat the yellw fruit, which from afar looks like a flower.

chollo and fruit

Strawberry Hedgehog

I’ll confess that I don’t know if I have pictures of this, but I found something(s) in the hedgehog family. They grow in the roots of trees on rocky slopes and reach a height of 12 inches tall.

The Chisos Hedgehog cactus is stolen by collectors, so it’s on brink of extinction. A cactus, people.

small cacti

small red cacti

small cacti


Fancy language alert: “the stems arise from a central crown.” Visiting in January, I saw dormant plants gone white. With just a bit of water, they’ll return to green and grow deciduous leaves within 24 hours! They shed and re-grow these leaves up to seven times a year. Why do they have leaves when it’s such a water waster? Can’t say. Early settlers used the Ocotillo as natural fences and animal pens.


Torrey Yucca

They grow to 15 feet tall! And as they shed prior growth, I think they look like a Muppet.

torrey yucca


They’re rather sexually aggressive looking before they sprout a stalk that looks like a tree. The “leaves” are thick and bendy yet sturdy, and smooth like raw chicken.


Candelillia and “Green Beans”


green bean cactus

Lechuguilla or Sotol?

They’re the same but different. Different sizes of the plant, different sizes of the stalk that grows within. But admittedly I can’t tell the difference.

It takes 3-15 years to store enough food to grow the stalk, depending on the amount of water the plant receives. And then they die after they flower. Indians used to use the juices to put poison on arrow tips, and now, medicine uses them in the creation of sex drugs–which is wonderfully suiting since this is the plant that’s called “wickedly erect.” The leaves/branches feel like a hula hoop.

soltillo or lechuguilla

cacti with hair

green branches of cacti

One of the incredible things I’ve learned on this trip is how many hobbies you can have. Plants and birds; rock collecting and rock study through geology; jewelry making and painting; stars and sun; weather and water. How wonderful to have so many options for learning and expression and discovery and travel.


What’s your hobby?

3 Responses


The purple fruit of the prickly pear is gorgeous and delicious. It’s dark purple and shiny and tastes like a combo of blackberries, blueberries and cherries. The fruit does have a lot of seeds, but they’re edible, like pomegranate seeds. I use the fruit as a garnish, and it always makes a plate of food look more appealing. There is the matter of removing the tiny, hairlike spines that can hurt like crazy, even though they’re barely visible. I salute you for your bravery in this matter.


Makes me miss Prickly Pear Margaritas at Nava. The photos are beautiful!

And that cactus DOES look like a muppet (I thought the same thing when I saw it).


Cactini please!

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