Have you ever tasted a Prickly Pear? I have, but such a long time ago that I almost can't remember the taste. I do remember the prickles though. The fruit is covered in tiny clusters of fine thorns, so fine that they are practically invisible once they have penetrated the skin. Very uncomfortable. Leather gloves are the answer.
The plant grows into an enormous cactus. It gained a foothold across the eastern half of Australia, looking like a tribe of triffid invaders on the march. It is a versatile succulent, not too choosy about the soil and conditions, so it was a successful competitor in the farmland scene.
A tiny beetle solved the problem. Cactoblastis cactorum. A fitting name for a bug with such an appetite.
The Prickly Pear pad in the photo was given to me by Pat Paganella. Pat told me that he got the first of his P. Pears from an Italian family who lived at Nungurner. I rather wish it had been Providence Ponds.
Australia's soils are ancient, weathered and colourful. I've been collecting some. These are the receiving soils for a myriad of introduced plants.
My prickly Pear pad is planted in soil samples from my collection. I planted it in this Fowlers Vacola jar two weeks ago.