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Cactus Pose

So, while a nation slept… the Opuntia genus of cactuses expanded.
Somewhere back in the day, I learned that the only native cactus found this far north (and east) was the eastern prickly pear, Opuntia humifusa. (Some pictures of them in flower from summers past at Jamaica Bay.)

The taxonomists now say there is another local species, Opuntia cespitosa, also called the prickly pear or, more helpfully, the tufted prickly pear. They were until recently assumed to be a part of O. humifusa. The most obvious difference is that the tufted has pink to dark red patches in the base of the flowers. They also have spines.
See here for more details.

This all came up when I submitted the photo at the very top of this post to iNaturalist and called it prickly pear (humifosa). However, there are flowers this time of year, so that’s no help.

Intrigued, I went searching through my archive. What do you know, here are some cespitosa flowers! Unfortunately, I’m not a hundred percent sure where I took these photos. I strongly suspect the NYBG Native Garden, so I’d call them cultivated.

Did you see this fine essay on the bristlecone pines?

Raptor Wednesday

Cooper’s Hawk!
This bird was still up here two hours later. I think it was digesting breakfast.

Uncivil disobedience: a new paradigm in Hong Kong, or how do you fight the awful might of the state?

American Wigeon


Choate says wigeon is from the French vigeon, for a whistling duck. Possibly from the Latin vipeo for small crane.

Mammal Monday

Directly above this very cautious squirrel was a
A Red-tailed Hawk (and some obstreperous Blue Jays).
The hawk had a very full crop. So digesting and chillaxing.
In the same tree as the hawk, another squirrel.

H. histrionicus

Brooklyn has gone avian rarities this winter. A Varied Thrush, a bird of the northwest into Alaska, has been hanging out in Prospect Park. A female Painted Bunting has been enjoying the amenities at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is also hosting a Black-headed Gull amid the thousands of Ring-billed Gulls who roost there.
And, something I actually have a picture of, a Harlequin Duck has been bobbing and diving in Sheepshead Bay.
A little bigger than the Buffleheads he’s been hanging out with. Histrionicus histrionicus generally like the rocky coastlines and strong waves found further north. The placid bay here, bulkheaded on three sides, is definitely not typical habitat.
Histrionicus, you say? Histrio, actor, dressed for the part. Histrionic, as in breeding plumage. Harlequinesque.

Meanwhile, what happened to the Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches?

Motley Mute

Mute Swans are invasive, but the transition from juvenile to adult plumage is still kinda cool.

Hedge Apple

For years I have read that Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) is also known as hedge apple and that it was often used as natural fencing, a living hedge as well as the source of very long lasting fence posts. I’ve never quite understood how this would work since the specimens I see are usually stately trees.
Until now.
This is a very shrubby plant, and clearly takes to sprouting back with a vengeance when cut. And it’s armored! William Least Half Moon on the thorns: “just the right length and strength to turn away fleshy creatures without lacerating them.”
This thicket is right across the path from a venerable double-trunked specimen that rains down softball sized fruits every year. Mowing and the paths have contained the spread of this over the years. But on the other side of the fence here, there are several saplings along the stream. The orange color of the bark is another good tell.


Notes from the class war: a golf course for the 1% next to Liberty State Park in New Jersey, kinda sorta visible from here, wants to expand into rare habitat.


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