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View of Buck Island from East End, St. Croix, USVI
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Schooner Roseway, St. Croix, USVI

Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Many different types of cacti are present throughout St.Croix, mostly on the dry terrain of the East End. The “prickly pear” (a) can be found throughout the island. Many use it for it’s decorative properties. This particular cactus possesses jointed stems formed of flattened segments covered with hairs. The flowers are yellow or orange, sometimes blushed red near the base. The fruits are purple. During harvesting, gloves can be worn to avoid being wounded by the spines and hairs. The sweet fruit is usually eaten raw, alone or placed in fruit salads. The Turks Cap (b) is completely covered with spines, has a short, stubby, barrel-like bottom with a taller, cylindrical top usually red and bristly. It can grow as large as 30 cm in height by 8 cm in diameter. Pink flowers develop among the bristles and spines so it makes for a great ornamental cactus. It thrives in arid, rocky areas along the coasts. Night-Blooming Cactus (c) is flaccid with a diameter of 1 to 3 cm, and usually requires the stability of another plant, so it is often found wrapped and hanging from other plants. It grows as a vining shrub with fleshy stems that are covered with silky spines up to 1.5 cm long and with deciduous white or yellow hairs. At night the white flowers bloom. Native to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cuba, it inhabits the scrub woods near the coast. It has been sold throughout the states for its ornamental purpose, and is also subject to large-scale cultivation since it yields a medicinal substance that stimulates the cardiovascular system. The Pipe Organ cactus (d) also commonly seen throughout the east end of the island stands tall and thin and is covered with woody, needle-like spines, varying in lengths to 2 inches long. Fluting is an adaptation to provide the plant with a greater green surface.