It's funny that anyone could think cacti are not suitable for the Pacific Northwest, when native cacti can be found in a variety of places. Sometimes their populations are localized, as in these plants in the Olympic Rainshadow in western Washington.
Opuntia fragilis on Whidbey Island, hiding in the grass. This form has cylindrical pads that are not upright, and have relatively inconspicuous white spines.
Another plant in the same area, this one is more upright.
Close up of a plant with especially nice, golden spines.
Habitat of Opuntia fragilis on Whidbey Island. It grows on windswept bluffs right by the sea, proving that cacti do not always require a lot of heat to grow well.
Opuntia fragilis in the Sequim area. I finally found one of these on a south facing slope north of the city!
Habitat of O. fragilis near Sequim. Note the presence of Quercus garryana and Arbutus menziesii, two northwest species that prefer drier areas.
A picture from that same spot, looking south towards the Olympic Mountains. You can see why the future of wild populations of this plant might be a matter of concern.
On August 23-24 I had the opportunity to do some botanizing in British Columbia with cacti enthusiasts Jay Akerley and Holli Benjamin. Here are just some of the cacti we encountered in between ducking under trains, eluding drunken rednecks and camping in freak windstorms.
Opuntia sp. on the Nicolai River east of Spences Bridge. These look to me like the O. columbiana forms one would find along the Columbia and Yakima Rivers in central Washington.
Opuntia sp. near Spences Bridge.
Who says cacti aren't common in British Columbia? Here is a whole field of it in Spences Bridge.
Opuntia sp. in Ashcroft. This plant looks somewhat like the O. columbiana forms in southeast Washington along the Snake River. But it is not like most of the plants growing near it in Ashcroft.
Here is one of the Ashcroft plants with red spines. It almost looks like a miniature of O. phaecantha! Some of them also had orange spines. In Cache Creek, we found similar but smaller plants with beautiful red and white spines.
This one had a super congested growth habit.
More Opuntias growing above the Thompson river in Ashcroft.
A pic of the surrounding area, to give a feel for the habitat of these cacti near Ashcroft.
Near Keremeos grows a fantastic Opuntia form with deep orange spines highlighted by sort of a black hue. It grows into large mounds up to 6' across (!!) as seen in the above picture.
Close up of the beautiful spines on this plant.
Okanogan form (or Okanagan for you Canadians) of O. fragilis (cultivated).
Jay Akerley's cactus and succulent garden east of Princeton, BC. This is in a very cold area that regularly sees temperatures down to -35°F each winter, and sometimes lower. The cacti are protected by a reliable covering of snow all winter. And there is no shortage of rocks to plant them in.
Opuntia columbiana near Vantage, Washington. Forms of this species from Central Washington are less like O. erinacea of the Rockies than the ones I found in Southeast Washington.
Opuntia columbiana west of Naches, where it grows along the Tieton River. This is perhaps the most westerly occurrence of O. columbiana in Washington. Photo by Seth Engle.
Pediocactus nigrispinus near Quincy.
This large Pediocactus is probably very old.
This famous Yucca elata in Oroville, just south of the Canadian border, was planted in 1962. It has thrived, but appears to be unable to produce seed without the Yucca moth to pollinate it.