11. Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus

You might be surprised to see a cactus in a New England native plant garden, but the range of Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa) stretches from Florida to Ontario. It is considered endangered here, where it occurs primarily in sandy soils and dunes along Cape Cod and Nantucket coastlines. Unsurprisingly, Eastern Prickly Pears are New England’s only native cactus species. Adapting to frigid winter temperatures is no easy task! To survive the colder months, O. humifusa draws its water stores out of its pads and withers to the ground. Antifreeze-like compounds protect the remaining tissues until spring returns. The unharmed cactus sends out a plethora of large yellow flowers in June that are attractive to several types of bees and beetles. Its fruits and seeds are collected by rabbits, rodents, and birds. Both the carefully de-spined fruits and pads are edible to humans.