Thursday, March 13, 2014
Semaphore Cactus - Opuntia corallicola
Semaphore cactus occurs in open areas within tropical hammocks of the Florida Keys. It is erect and can reach mature heights of six feet. The plants assume an irregular form as the pads (cladophylls) align themselves mostly on one plane. Each is oblong in shape and nearly one foot long when mature. Like other members of this genus, they are covered by stout spines.
Flowering occurs throughout the year. They are a bright orange in color with contrasting yellow stamens. Each bloom is about 1/2 inch long. The pollination of this plant is unknown and fruit have not been seen. Currently, reproduction is known only by asexual means - the pads break off, root, and form new plants.
Semaphore cactus is both beautiful and interesting, but its future is imperiled. Hopefully, conservation efforts currently underway will be successful and this species will continue on into the future.