The flat, jointed pads of the beavertail give rise to its name. A low-growing prickly pear with gray-green stems and no large spines, the pads are covered with tiny brown bristles called glochids. These are far more irritating and bothersome to the human body than the big spines. Note to admirers of the flowers, don't get too close to the plant!
Growing on the rockiest slopes, these plants seem to need little in the way of soil or water. The flowers range in color from bold magenta to delicate pink, and I understand, there are even yellow and white varieties. In this section of the Sonoran Desert along the Colorado River, I saw none of the yellow or white.
The flowers are followed by fruits, magenta to pale green, maturing to dry brown-gray, barrel shaped and usually spineless. Cactus bees are the pollinators.
A drive along Cienega Springs Road, and later a hike up Buckskin Trail literally took my breath away with the stunning glory of these flowers. The Death Valley superbloom had nothing on this display!