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Hunting for the native range of cactus on the East Coast:

Message from Mike coastal CT

Since this seems to the morning of xeric posts ….I thought I’d post this one.

Over the last few years I’ve read about a few isolated wild populations of Opuntia left in southern Connecticut/and on Long Island - and hunted them down (sometime finding them/sometimes not). Several botanical references seem to confirm that just to my south there are well known wild populations of opuntia along the New Jersey coast….and just to my north there are NO known wild populations of Opuntia in coastal Rhode Island - so somewhere along the coast of Connecticut/Long Island Opuntia becomes endemic.

The intense development of Connecticut/Long Island has bulldozed many of these spots that were once known to have wild populations…along with tidal surges from recent hurricanes. Last week it was a sunny day near 60 F, so I decided to take the kids out to Milford Point, a small barrier island, to see if I could still find one of the northernmost (along the East Coast) wild populations of Opuntia:

Milford Point is about 60 miles east of NYC inside Long Island Sound:

In the distance you can see the heavy coastal development right to the dune line:

After Hurricane Sandy hit 3 years ago, I was actually expecting to not find any. After walking on a short plank walkway I saw the first small patch deep in the grass (almost missed them). After that, I saw no more anywhere around:

Then, ready to already call it a day, I decide to walk (carefully) into the dune scrub on a sandy path just before I left: This area seemed really dry (and even hot on this December day), I figured it was actually too sandy to support much: I then saw the first LARGE patch, they appeared healthy and spreading:

Then looked and saw many other large patches in several different directions. They appeared to grow deep in the grass or even in what looked like pure sand:


We ended up back on the beach:

Hope you enjoyed the "hunt".

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