If you think that you're looking at a cactus growing at the Botanical Gardens' Succulent Show
(Sept. 8 - Oct 7), then you're way off. While there are plenty of cacti and succulents found in Greater Buffalo, the only ones that I've ever seen are either growing in households or at the Botanical Gardens. Except one. The one seen here in the lead photo has been living outdoors in a front garden on Bryant Street for over three years. Its owner, Scott Dunkle, told me that the cactus started as an offshoot from another cactus that has been growing outside in a yard in South Buffalo for over 30 years.
To me, the story of this 30+ year old cactus and its survival in a four season climate is incredible. As I look out at all of the yellow lawns and dying shrubs and flowers, I can't help to think about this sole cactus that I pass by everyday. Here's an informational snippet that I found that explains just how a cactus can survive in a four-season climate such as Buffalo:
The champions of cold-hardy cacti come from the prickly pear family, known botanically as Opuntia. There are many kinds of cacti in this family, but two of the toughest are Opuntia fragilis, hardy to -35 degrees F, and Opuntia poryapantha, hardy to -25°F. The eastern prickly pear (Opuntia compressa), native to most parts of the eastern United States and southern Ontario, is an easy-to-grow choice. Its juicy red fruits (the "pear" of the common name) are edible.
- See article
in Better Homes and Gardens
Scott tells me that his cactus blooms vibrant yellow flowers each spring and then wilts in the winter months. He doesn't do anything special to take care of it otherwise, other than cut it back because it thrives in his garden. It grows in the same soil as the rest of his plants, is watered no more or no less, loves all of the sun that we get here, and apparently reawakens each spring. If there was ever a plant that does well in drought conditions, it's got to be this prickly pear. The ability to spread the love of this cacti also makes it a desirable plant, because all one has to do is snip off a section, transplant it and voilà!
If Buffalo continues to suffer from mild winters and oppressively hot summers, then we might just have to start rethinking what sort of plants we should be planting. I have always been a big fan of cacti. I think that I may just snip off a piece of Scott's cactus (he said that I could) to see if I have the same results in years to come. Thanks Scott.