Nature Watch: "Beavertail Cactus"


Last updated 4/5/2023 at 12:40pm

Beavertail Cactus

It may not be one of the larger cactus species, but the diminutive beavertail cactus makes up for it with one of the most strikingly beautiful flowers.

Found on dry, rocky hillsides throughout Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, this showy succulent only grows from six to 12 inches in height and in clusters only a few feet in width.

Visitors to Borrego Springs will frequently see this beautiful cactus bloom alongside the road as they come into Borrego Springs on Montezuma Grade or over Yaqui Pass.

Iridescent magenta to red flowers are now starting to appear at the tips of this cactus species, and the bloom will continue until June if conditions are right.

The flattened gray-blue pads of the beavertail are similar to the larger prickly pear cactus, but generally do not have needles.

Native Americans used the beavertail for both food and medicine.

The flower buds were boiled or steamed and eaten, while seed bulbs were ground and eaten as mush, or dried and eaten as fruit.

A poultice could also be prepared from the inner parts of the pulpy pads to help healing of minor wounds.

This beautiful cactus species makes for an ideal arid landscaping species as a native evergreen succulent that produces beautiful seasonal flowers and serves as a host to several species of butterflies and moths. It's a common addition to arid landscapes, makes for a low-growing hedge and is deer resistant.

Remember, all plants within the state park are protected, but fortunately, several native plant nurseries in Southern California carry the beavertail cactus.

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