The Cactus Seed

Ever wondered what a cactus seed looks like? I’d imagined it to have spines, because everything in the Sonoran desert has spines–from orange trees to aloes. Cactus seeds do not have spines, and they are surprising, because they are small. Even the seeds for the giant saguaro are small–about the size of the head of a pin.

I have a fencepost cactus in my front yard. It bloomed last summer. The  cactus blooms at night and the flower looks like this:

cactusflower copy

And after the bloom finished, it set a fruit. One fruit for each bloom.

cactus1The taller post is about six feet tall. At first the fruits are green, then they turn darker blue-green.

cactus2And then, surprisingly, they turn red. Bright cherry red. They are very hard and can’t be knocked off the cactus easily, which is a good thing. Birds keep looking at them, but don’t really do more than sit on them.

Finally, the fruit cracks open. At this stage birds will land on the fruit and work out the tiny black seeds. Thrashers, with their curved beaks, love the fruit.

cactus3The bright red one is ready for the birds, the dark one in back will take another two weeks to ripen. I removed a ripe fruit from the tree. This one is about the size of a small apple.

cactus4I cut it in half; here’s what it looks like open:

cactus5The seeds are small and crunchy. You can scoop out the white flesh which is crispy like an Asian Pear and eat the whole fruit. The taste is sweet and sort of like a cross between an Asian Pear and a kiwi. No wonder the birds like to wait for the fruit to ripen.

And while the snow is piling up on the East Coast and it is just past the half-way mark of February, Spring has come to Phoenix.

Here’s the first leaf on the fig tree:

figThe flower to the right of the photo is a aloe blossom, at least four feet tall.


And here are the grapefruit blossoms getting ready to bloom. A few grapefruits are still on the tree. Spring has come here.

-Quinn McDonald is spending as much time outside as she can. By April, it will be too hot to do a lot of that.