Devil’s Head Delight

Local News

With an ominous name like Devil’s Head Cactus, you might think the species was something to be feared, and while it does require respect, Richard Moore tells us it is a favorite menu item for wildlife this time of year.

While it will be a few weeks before the Prickly Pear Cactus blooms fade and the tunas or fruit ripen, there is another cactus in the arid south Texas wildlands that is a favorite this time of year.  One of the first birds to pierce the ripe red fruits is a Golden Fronted woodpecker.  
 
The horse crippler or Devil’s Head is covered in a thick array of sturdy sharp spines, and woe be to man or beast that unsuspectingly trods on the formidable cactus.
 
Mother nature has cleverly arranged things such that different native plants fruit at various times of the year providing sustenance throughout the seasons.
 
In early summer, before the prolific Prickly Pear tunas ripen, the horse crippler produces bright reddish fruit that quickly garners the attention of a variety of wildlife. Some specimens have some 16 luscious tunas, but they won’t last long when eagerly devoured by cardinals, woodpeckers and others.
 
The Curve-billed thrasher aggressively avails itself of the bounty and busily feeds its fledgling the rich juicy pulp.  The thrasher is careful not to waste any of the nutritious meal, and tiny tidbits that fall to the ground are quickly speared.
 
A Bobwhite quail cautiously pecks at the fruit, but quickly moves on, while a pair of scaled quail don’t hesitate to dine on the cactus.
 
Now, that is a treat worth throwing your head back and crowing about.
 
Throughout the afternoon, a parade of birds dine on the tasty tunas, and at this rate those 16 plump red fruits of the Devil’s Head surely won’t last long.

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