Planting native foliage in my yard has become a bit of a hobby of mine over the past four years or so. Getting my hands dirty is a small joy in this otherwise technology-driven world.
Here in New Jersey, we may have a small state compared to most others in America, but check out this enlightening factoid I read recently:
New Jersey has over 2,100 species of native plants. This impressive diversity equates to approximately 13% of the floral diversity in the United States on just 0.25% of the landmass. New Jersey’s plant diversity is largely attributed to the distinct ecological regions found here and that New Jersey is a meeting ground for both northern and southern species that are at the edge of their range.Pinelands Preservation Alliance newsletter
When I first found myself dabbling in native plant gardening, I was surprised to learn that New Jersey, along with much of the East Coast, even has a native cactus, the prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa).
So, of course, I had to try to grow one.
What started as a single, lonesome, dull green pad the size of a child’s hand that I purchased for a few bucks and figured had no chance of surviving, the prickly pear in my front yard has started to sprawl several years later. You can see in the above photo that it has also developed eye-catching yellow blossoms over the past few days. And while I haven’t done a taste test, prickly pear cacti are even edible.
Best of all? After planting it, the work I have done to maintain this unique plant has been next to nil.
For an amateur gardener like myself, I can dig that.