Plant This: ‘Old Mexico’ prickly pear

May 17, 2020

Everyone needs at least one beautiful beast of a plant in their garden, a tough old boot intent on annexing adjacent real estate, but not so quickly that you can can’t beat it back. Texas tough. Meet ‘Old Mexico’ prickly pear (Opuntia gomei), also called wavy-leaf prickly pear.

Its lemon-yellow, ruffled flowers glow like cups of pure sunshine in late spring. Each flower lasts just one day, but mature plants produce dozens, extending the floral show for a couple of weeks.

More flower buds ready to pop

Its large leaf pads have a wavy shape with scalloped edges. While technically spineless, it does have tiny, nearly invisible glochids that embed themselves in skin and cause pain if you handle a pad with bare fingers. Just don’t. I speak from experience.

Don’t use cloth or leather gloves to handle it either unless you want glochids permanently embedded in them. Instead use BBQ tongs to handle fallen or pruned pads. Sometimes I’ll just use a shovel blade or the sole of my shoe to knock off a pad at the joint and then scoop it up with a shovel.

Why bother knocking or pruning off pads? I

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