Grazing North Texas — Prickly Pear

By Tony Dean 

We would be hard pressed to find a plant on North Texas grazing lands that has a more beautiful flower but at the same time has a more aggravating presence than the prickly pear.

Prickly pear is considered a native perennial. There are five species and several varieties within those species that grow in North Texas. Prickly pear grows in all areas of Texas, will survive on all soil types and is extremely drought tolerant. It is estimated that there are more than 25 million acres of prickly pear in Texas.

Livestock do not normally graze prickly pear pads, but a few animals will consume small tender pads. During drought, ranchers have resorted to using propane torches to burn the thorns off prickly pear so that livestock can consume it. Nutritionally, the pads provide low to fair levels of crude protein but high levels of energy and high water content.

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Prickly pear flowers. Prickly pear grows in all areas of Texas, and almost all states in the continental United States. It can be found as far north as southern Canada. (Photos by Tony Dean)