A cactus blooms above Milford

Jul 01 2016 | 06:20 AM

By Pamela Chergotis
— You don't have to go to the Southwest to see cactus plants growing in the wild, or to Hawaii to see bright, extravagant blooms planted by Nature's hand. The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) can be found right here, in the cliffs high above Milford. And if you're lucky enough to come across a patch in bloom, you'll never forget it.
These plants are sun worshippers. They bloom when the days are longest and the sun, on high, exposed cliff, is fiercest. The yellow flowers shimmer so brilliantly under the summer sun, it's a challenge for a not-great photographer like me to keep from blowing out their centers. Other patches of prickly pear in relative shade looked healthy enough, but they weren't blooming.
Although the prickly pear is found throughout the East and Midwest, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says there are only about 30 "occurrences" in Pennsylvania, mostly on shale barrens and rocky slopes and cliffs in the southern part of the state.
The Pennsylvania Biological Survey considers prickly-pear cactus to be "a species of special concern" because of its rarity and specialized habitat.