When I think of cacti or cactuses (both terms are correct) I think of desert scenes and old spaghetti western movies, but I had no idea a place as lush and green as Michigan could also be included as a place where these prickly plants thrive.
Not only is Michigan in fact home to native cacti, there are two different species that thrive in the Mitten. Did you know this? Because I sure didn't! Today I truly learned something new.
Fragile prickly-pear, or Opuntia fragilis, is a flowering cactus plant that features a beautiful yellow flower when it blooms. It turns out that Fragile Prickly Pear is native to most of North America and can not only be found in Michigan, but in neighboring states like Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and even Canada! The fragile prickly pear is considered an endangered species and is relatively small.
This species of cactus is often referred to as the eastern prickly pear and is typically found in regions between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, but can also be found near Ontario, Canada. According to Michigan Nature Guy, in Michigan the eastern prickly pear can be found in southwest Michigan and in Monroe County in the far southeast corner of the state.
Where Do Michigan Cacti Grow?
Prickly pear cacti thrive in sunny areas and quite often you'll find them growing in well-drained, sandy areas. Though it is quite common to find cacti in Michigan's lower peninsula, it was recently discovered that both species of cacti are now present in the upper peninsula.
Residents of southwest Michigan have shared first-hand accounts of finding cacti in the area saying:
- "There are extensive settings of prickly pear in the Allegan State Game Area and a few spots along the Kal-Haven trail." - Jeff Green
- "There is a large grouping of MI Prickly Pear along the White Pine Trail in Belding, and low and behold last year I stumbled upon a small grouping in our subdivision in Sparta, MI. " - Lucy Chargot
- "We have about a hundred of them growing on a half acre corner lot of our property in Van Buren County. They have multiplied over the last few years.
Now (late June to early July) is blooming time for them." - R.J.