The Obliging Opuntias
Cacti supply most of the water as well as food and
shelter for many desert inhabitants.
The white-throated woodrat lodges comfortably in
the protected interior of the prickly pear cactus,
while javelinas (collared peccaries) relish the pear's
thick-skinned, moisture-storing pads. Edible
fruit - called "tunas" - mature in autumn,
nourishing birds, insects, rabbits and squirrils.
Small animals climb the strong, curved, red hooks
of the barrel cactus to reach the pineapple-shaped
fruit, and desert rodents and rabbits sometimes
gnaw into the plant's tissues to get moisture.
Two of the many forms of cholla found near the trail
are staghorn and chain fruit. Both have sharp,
barbed spines, yet many rodents and birds live
comfortably in them.