Prickly Pear Cacti – Many Varieties, Many Uses

Prickly pear cacti (genus Opuntia) range from southern Canada to southern South America, in habitats ranging from arid desert to tropical semiarid woodlands and high mountains. There are about 18 species in the Sonoran Desert region, some of which form hybrids. Native peoples recognize many more varieties. I have five (maybe six) varieties of prickly pear in my yard. The most common in the Tucson area is the Engelmann prickly pear. The first photo above shows the ripe fruit. The second shows the flowers which start out reddish and get yellow as they mature. All cactus fruit is edible.

According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM), cacti of genus Opuntia, which includes chollas, are distinguished from other cacti by four characteristics. “First, the stems grow in distinctly jointed segments. The elongation of joints is permanently terminated by the onset of the dry season; subsequent growth of the plant occurs by the initiation of new joints by branching from the areoles. (Other cacti have indeterminate growth. A saguaro stem, for example, grows ever longer each growing season until the plant dies or the stem tip is damaged.) Second, whether or not they have regular spines, Opuntioid areoles bear glochids (usually small to minute, barbed spines that are very sharp and brittle, and very easily detached). Third, rudimentary leaves are present on new joints. Fourth, the seeds have a pale covering called an aril; most other cacti have shiny black seeds.”

Prickly pears are Western Hemisphere plants, but they are now found all over the world. “Sailors brought them back from the New World in the sixteenth century and they are found in Italy, India, Ceylon, South Africa and Australia. In all but Italy, the hope was to raise cochineal insects, but the insects died and the cactus escaped to become part of the landscape.” – ASDM

Cochineal insects, a source of red dye, grow, sometimes profusely, on prickly pear pads under white fuzzy webs, especially in August. See link below.

Spineless varieties of prickly pear were also tried as food for cattle. In South Africa, I saw many plantations on farms for that purpose.

Use as food:

Both the pads and fruit are eaten by pack rats, jackrabbits, javelina, insects, and humans. Note: the pads contain oxalic acid which can make humans sick. However, new spring pads contain much less oxalic acid so these pads were used for human consumption. Preparation may include boiling to leach out the acid. Many native American tribes used the pads as their green vegetable. The flesh is mucilaginous (like okra) and was used to thicken soups.

Fruit from any of the prickly pears can be eaten by humans. The fruit turns reddish-purple when ripe. (The ripe fruit is called “tuna”or “cactus fig”) Some preparation is required to remove the spines and glochids. Native Americans rolled the fruit in sand or other plant material. Cowboys used to put the fruit on a stick and burn off the glochids with a match or over a camp fire.

Generally people eat the flesh of the fruit and discard the seeds. The seeds are edible, but too many cause intestinal upsets. The seeds can be parched, dried, and ground into a flour. They don’t cause digestive upset that way. The juice of the fruit may be made into a syrup or jelly or used in pies and drinks.

Flower petals can be used to garnish salads.

Preparation techniques for both pads and fruit are shown here: http://www.wikihow.com/Eat-Prickly-Pear-Cactus and

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_cut_and_prepare_prickly_pears/

Medicinal use:

According to WebMD: Prickly pear cactus is used to treat type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, alcohol hangover, colitis, diarrhea, and benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). It is also used to fight viral infections. Prickly pear cactus contains fiber and pectin, which can lower blood glucose by decreasing the absorption of sugar in the stomach and intestine. Some researchers think that it might also decrease cholesterol levels, and kill viruses in the body.

According to DesertUSA, “Researchers are using the prickly pear juice, produced by Arizona Cactus Ranch in Southern Arizona, for their studies, because it is pure. Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Tucson Arizona uses Arizona Cactus Ranch Prickly Pear Nectar in their Alternative Medicine Diabetic Preventive Program since 1997. Prickly pear extract has also been shown to reduce the severity and occurrence of hangovers if taken in advance of drinking. Nausea, dry mouth, appetite loss, and alcohol-related inflammation were all reduced in test subjects who ingested prickly pear extract 5 hours prior to drinking. You can make your own tests and see if it works for you, which is the only test that really counts.”

The juice from the pads was also used topically to treat cuts, bruises, and inflammation of the skin.

PP-rabbit-ears

Other uses:

The juice from prickly pears has long been used to strengthen adobe mortar. It was so used in the restoration of the San Xavier Mission in Tucson.

As mentioned above, there are many species and hybrids, so exact identification may be difficult. ASDM notes: “Numerous species of cholla and some prickly pears hybridize with one another. Hybrid populations are fairly common. Some of these hybrids may reproduce sexually; others are sexually sterile but can reproduce vegetatively. There are several such ‘clonal microspecies’ in the Tucson area alone, some of which are restricted to a patch of just a few acres. Most of the descriptions of these species are published only in scientific monographs and have not yet appeared in general plant lists and keys. So if you are frustrated with being unable to identify a cholla or prickly pear from a field guide, be assured that you’re not alone. No field guide can cover all the possible hybrids and ‘microspecies.’”

See also:

A Desert Christmas cactus

Indian Fig – a useful variety of Prickly Pear Cactus

Cochineal the Little Red Bug

A green lynx spider may be lurking in your yard

Can You Get Potable Water From a Cactus?

An Alternative to Statehood for Washington, D.C.

On April 22, 2021, the Democrat-led House of Representatives passed a bill paving the way to grant Washington, D.C. statehood. This has long been a Democrat party goal in order to gain two more Democrat Senators. The touted reason for this change is to grant citizens of Washington D.C. the same representation and voting rights as citizens of states.

Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution established a federal district independent of any state. The Founders established such a federal district because they didn’t want states interfering with the seat of federal government. It would probably take a constitutional amendment to change the situation and that is not likely.

There is a simpler processes to provide residents of the federal district the same representation and voting rights as citizens of states. That is to redraw the boundaries of the federal district which Congress can do. Residential and business areas of the District of Columbia could be ceded back to the state of Maryland. Washington, D.C. residents would then become citizens of Maryland with all the voting and representation rights enjoyed by other citizens of Maryland. Only the two to three square miles that contain federal buildings and the National Mall would remain as an independent federal district. That, of course, would frustrate Democrat goals of power. Perhaps the citizens of Washington, D.C. could take a vote on whether to take this alternative or to remain as is.

Plant Evapotranspiration Reduction Causes Global Warming, not CO2 GHG

Wryheat note: The following is an original research paper written by David Motes, a chemical engineer with 43 years professional experience. Below I provide the paper abstract with a link to the full paper as a PDF file. The full paper discusses nine problems with the Greenhouse hypothesis and then presents Motes’ alternative hypothesis. Mr. Motes may be contacted at davidmotes7@gmail.com.

Plant Evapotranspiration Reduction Causes Global Warming, not CO2 GHG
by David Motes

Abstract
Anthropogenic (manmade) Global Warming (AGW) has many causes. CO2 drives recent global warming by Plant Evapotranspiration Reduction (PER), not CO2 Green House Gas (GHG) theory. For example, the irrefutable correlation between global temperature and CO2 concentration for the last 800+ thousand years can only be explained by plant evapotranspiration increases / decreases and not by the prevailing CO2 GHG effects. The prevailing GHG theory cannot explain why CO2 increased or decreased or the carbon source prior to fossil fuel emissions, but PER does. Quantitative evidence for PER driving global warming over CO2 GHG follows:

  1. Using a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency) energy balance, the scientific consensus 0.70%/year plant water use efficiency increase (evapotranspiration reduction) caused by higher CO2 generates a calculated temperature rise 12 times the actual measured temperature rise.
  2. Similarly, the measured 0.23%/year deforestation and land use change (causing same plant evapotranspiration 0.23%/year reduction) generates a calculated temperature rise 3 times the actual measured temperature rise. From scientific consensus, global development, deforestation, commercial farming, and commercial ranching have reduced plants (consequently evapotranspiration) since the 1960 industrial global expansion. Explaining the 12 and 3 factors:
    A. The actual temperature increase was less due to increasing infrared radiation emitted by the atmosphere to space from that same temperature rise.
    B. Terrestrial biomass increases in deserts and arid lands partially offset the measured evapotranspiration reductions.
  3. Only 8% photosynthesis reduction is equivalent to all 2020 fossil fuel CO2 emissions.
  4. Water vapor is 192 times stronger GHG than CO2 when you factor in both infrared absorbances and atmospheric concentrations. Consequently, CO2 GHG contributes only ~0.3% to AGW, balance driven by PER.
  5. The PER impact on global warming is demonstrated in real life at many locations such as city centers being 1-3 °C warmer than the surrounding suburbs or countryside. Secondly, the air is 3-4oC cooler above a green grass lawn vs a black asphalt parking lot. PER provides an explanation for the undeniable Global Warming that fits all the scientific data (climate history, carbon sources, carbon mass balances, energy balances, GHG parameters, humidity data, etc.) as quantified and explained in this engineering and scientific study. “Greening” the earth (increasing plant life) is less expensive and substantially more effective than just reducing annual fossil fuel CO2 emissions (contributes only 1% of existing atmospheric CO2).

Quantified problems with the proposed CO2 annual emission reduction
plans follow:

  1. Will certainly fail by focusing on the 1%/year contribution and foolishly ignoring the 99% existing atmospheric CO2.
  2. Focuses solely on reducing the 8% CO2 emissions driver, while ignoring the 92% plant life CO2 driver. Prior to attempting to resolve the current global warming problem, we should identify, quantify, and confirm the root cause(s) and magnitudes. Then, solutions become clearer and more cost effective.

Read the full paper:

CO2 & Global Temperature 19apr2021

“King Coal” is not dead yet

Many countries are ignoring the (false) principles of the Paris Climate Accord and instead going with what works to produce reliable electricity.

Here are some recent headlines about generating electricity by burning coal:

Africa to double coal fired power by 2030 (link)

India meets climate goals early by doubling coal, and keeping it as main energy source for next 30 years (link)

In 2020 China built three times more coal power than the rest of the world (link)

Un-Greening: Mexico gives up on renewables, revives coal industry (link)

The UK’s “End of Coal” lasted a whole week (link)

Colombia announces coal support for decades to come (link)

Coal rescues Germany from its renewable energy folly (link)

France relights coal power plants to keep the lights on (link)

Coal’s Share Of Global Energy Supply Has Been Increasing For 50 Years, IEA Reports (link)

And:

Will France Leave the Paris Agreement in 2022?

France is failing to meet its goals under the Paris Climate Accord. Depending who is elected the new French president in 2022, France may dump the accord altogether. (Read more)

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is employing climate and energy “czars” who appear to be woefully ignorant of both subjects. Instead, in my opinion, their real goal is power. The Biden administration’s approach to both energy and corona virus could be summed up as follows:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H. L. Mencken

But President Biden claims that climate change is “an existential threat” and any view to the contrary must be eliminated, see:

When Climate Alarmism Meets Cancel Culture 

by Bjorn Lomborg

The academic and activist faction that sets the threatening tone in the climate conversation wants dissent eliminated, leaving themselves the only ones authorized to tell you how scared you should be. To avoid wasting trillions, we should not let them. (Read more)

For the real story on climate and energy, read my posts:

A Review of the state of Climate Science

A Summary of Earth’s Climate History-a Geologist’s View

Problems with wind and solar generation of electricity – a review

The “Social Cost of Carbon” Scam Revisited

ATMOSPHERIC CO2: a boon for the biosphere

Impact of the Paris Climate Accord and why Trump was right to drop it

Global Warming and Rising Carbon Dioxide are a Boon for Plant Life

Some climate alarmists have been claiming that global warming has been decreasing agricultural productivity. (For instance, see here.) But real data proves otherwise.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is plant food. Increasing CO2 and warming have enhanced plant growth and makes plants more water efficient. And, according to NASA, “greening of the Earth mitigates surface warming” (Link), NASA writes: “A new study reports that increased vegetation growth during the recent decades, known as the ‘Greening Earth’, has a strong cooling effect on the land due to increased efficiency of heat and water vapor transfer to the atmosphere.” This is based upon satellite observations.

The Heartland Institute has created a new website (Climate at a Glance) which “puts frequently argued climate issues into short, concise, summaries that provide the most important, accurate, powerful information.) Their section on crop production begins:

“Longer growing seasons, higher temperatures, and more atmospheric carbon dioxide are creating ideal crop conditions. As global climate modestly warms, U.S. and global crop yields are setting new records almost every year. The same is true for nearly all other nations, too. Thanks in large part to longer growing seasons, fewer frost events, more precipitation, and the fertilization effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide, farmers are producing more food on less land, allowing them to feed a growing global population.” (Read more)

The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change provides summaries and reviews of scientific papers. Here are the conclusions of their summary studies of plant productivity:

Distant and historic past:

In spite of claims that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations and unprecedented global warming since the inception of the Industrial Revolution are destroying (or will destroy) the productivity of the biosphere, the terrestrial vegetative biomass of the globe as a whole continues to rise; and it appears to be doing so at a remarkable rate. As for why is this so, it may well be that the twin evils of the radical environmental movement (rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations) are not the evils they are made out to be, but actually blessings in disguise … blessings that are fueling the biosphere!

Recent past:

In spite of climate-alarmist claims that the temperatures of the latter part of the 20th century and on through the present were unprecedented over the past one to two millennia (which is highly debatable) and that atmospheric CO2 concentrations were the highest they had been for several hundred millennia (which is true), as well as the fact that mankind yearly harvests and/or destroys much of the planet’s natural vegetation, the total yearly production of terrestrial vegetative biomass for the globe as a whole continues to rise, and at a remarkable rate.

Projection for the future:

Throughout the course of the current century, even the severe warming predicted by current climate models will not likely be detrimental to plant growth and productivity. Rather, it will likely be a major benefit, enhancing plant growth and soil organic carbon storage, which (in addition to their own virtues) will provide a significant negative feedback to global warming as the Greening of the Earth continues!

A review of papers on grasslands finds “as the air’s CO2 concentration continues to increase, grassland species should respond positively by exhibiting increased rates of photosynthesis. In addition, such increases in photosynthesis will likely occur even under unfavorable growing conditions characterized by less-than-adequate soil moisture, inadequate soil nutrition, elevated air temperature, and physical stress imposed by herbivory. Thus, earth’s grassland species will likely grow ever more robustly in the future, thanks to the ever increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration produced by the burning of ever larger quantities of fossil fuels.”

The studies above are on plant productivity in general. More specific studies on food crops show enhanced growth with warming temperatures and increases of carbon dioxide.

Related:

Contrary to current political policy of eliminating CO2 emissions, real science shows that doing so will have no significant effect on global warming and will waste trillions of dollars. For some background see:

A Review of the state of Climate Science

Jaguars and more junk science

A new study, published by Cambridge University Press, “A systematic review of potential habitat suitability for the jaguar Panthera onca in central Arizona and New Mexico, USA,” claims that large areas of Arizona and New Mexico may be suitable habitat for wild jaguars.

From the study abstract:

“Here we present a systematic review of the modelling and assessment efforts over the last 25 years, with a focus on areas north of Interstate-10 in Arizona and New Mexico, outside the recovery unit considered by the USFWS. Despite differences in data inputs, methods, and analytical extent, the nine previous studies found support for potential suitable jaguar habitat in the central mountain ranges of Arizona and New Mexico. Applying slightly modified versions of the USFWS model and recalculating an Arizona-focused model over both states provided additional confirmation. Extending the area of consideration also substantially raised the carrying capacity of habitats in Arizona and New Mexico, from six to 90 or 151 adult jaguars, using the modified USFWS models. This review demonstrates the crucial ways in which choosing the extent of analysis influences the conclusions of a conservation plan. More importantly, it opens a new opportunity for jaguar conservation in North America that could help address threats from habitat losses, climate change and border infrastructure.” (Link to full paper)

The study has 17 authors, 14 of which (in my opinion) belong to radical environmental groups.

As stated in the abstract, the researchers did no on-the-ground research, but instead used models to “cherry-pick” previous publications. Reports of this study appeared in the Arizona Republic and in the March 19, 2021 print edition only of the Arizona Daily Star.

This study renews a very controversial topic. My take on the study is that the authors are campaigning for establishment of more critical habitat. Even if larger areas of Arizona and New Mexico could support Jaguar habitat, there is still no reason to formally establish “critical habitat” which would have many bad effects on property rights and natural resource production. The natural habitats in Mexico, Central America, South America are sufficient to provide for the species.

In my previous article on this subject Proposed Jaguar Habitat in Arizona and New Mexico Is Scientifically and Legally Indefensible, I provide a report from the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District (PNRCD): which “shows that the proposal by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate Critical Habitat for the jaguar under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is scientifically indefensible because it is based on flawed data, and it violates laws such as the Data Quality Act.”

PNRCD requested that FWS withdraw its proposed rule “because habitat ‘essential’ to the conservation of the jaguar as a species does not exist in either Arizona or New Mexico under any scientifically credible definition of that term, because designation of critical habitat therein cannot possibly help save jaguars, and because the economic consequences of adding yet another layer of regulation and restriction on national security, resource production, water use, hunting and recreation during the worst recession on record since 1929 far outweigh any possibly discernible benefit to jaguars as a species that might be gained by designating critical habitat for them north of the Mexican border where they are but rarely transient…”

“For Critical Habitat to be established under ESA, the FWS must show that the area in question is essential to the jaguars conservation and survival as a species, not merely whether the area in question could host or has hosted individual, transient jaguars.”

 

The “Social Cost of Carbon” Scam Revisited

As I wrote in 2015:

The “social cost of carbon”(SCC) is a computer-generated artifice that puts a dollar figure on the alleged environmental and economic damage caused by carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. This number is supposed to allow bureaucrats to offset the alleged damage through regulation and taxes, i.e., it will increase the cost of electricity and gasoline. The computer models fail to take into account the benefits of carbon dioxide, such as making our crops more robust and more water efficient. Also, there is absolutely no physical evidence that our carbon dioxide emissions have any significant role in controlling global climate. (Read more on Wryheat)

Recent articles on SCC:

Why ‘Social Cost of Carbon’ Is Most Useless Number You’ve Never Heard Of

by Kevin Dayaratna

Dubbed by some as “the most important number you’ve never heard of,” the social cost of carbon is defined as the economic damages associated with a ton of carbon dioxide emissions across a particular time horizon. That metric, relied upon heavily by the Obama administration, has been used as the basis for regulatory policy in the energy sector of the economy. Three sets of statistical models are used to estimate the social cost of carbon. Social cost of carbon estimates are based on very questionable assumptions regarding the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide emissions, naive projections reaching 300 years into the future, and ignorance of discount rate recommendations by the Office of Management and Budget regarding cost-benefit analysis. Our results tell the same story: Assumptions made by modelers can drastically change the purported estimates and thus beef up the damages as much as they want. (Read more)

Social Cost of Carbon May Be Social Benefit of Carbon, Economist Finds

by James Taylor (commenting on Dauaratna’s paper)

The Biden administration made headlines by imposing a “social cost of carbon” – to be factored into federal cost-benefit analysis – that is more than six times higher than the social cost of carbon determined by the Trump administration. However, economist and data scientist Kevin Dayaratna published an article documenting that the alleged social “cost” of carbon may actually be a social “benefit” of carbon. In an article for the Daily Signal, Dayaratna observes that any accurate assessment of the social cost of carbon must include social benefits as well as merely social harms. Importantly, Dayaratna observes that any sound cost/benefit assessment must take into account “positive agricultural feedback effects associated with carbon dioxide emissions.”

“In fact, we found that under very reasonable assumptions, those benefits can outweigh the costs, suggesting that the social cost of carbon can indeed be negative,” Dayaratna writes. “The policy implication of a negative social cost of carbon is that the government should not be taxing carbon dioxide emissions, but should be subsidizing it instead.” (Source)

See also: The Social Cost of Carbon Fantasy and

Biden’s Arbitrary Social Cost of Carbon: What You Need to Know

12 State Attorneys General Sue Biden Admin Over Its Climate Policies The lawsuit said Biden’s executive order enables regulatory agencies to place restrictions on nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives in order to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

For a tutorial on climate read:

A Review of the state of Climate Science

The past, present, and future state of Tucson’s creeks and rivers

From the Arizona Geological Survey:

‘The past, present, and future state of Tucson’s creeks and rivers’, a #StoryMap by the Watershed Management Group (a 501 (c) non-profit). The presentation includes some excellent historic images, diagrams, and interactive maps showing flow conditions, past and present, in Tucson drainages. Most illustrations have explanatory text. Just scroll down through the article.

Take a look.

An Arizona Rancher’s Request of President Biden

The following is a letter sent to President Biden by Southern Arizona Ranchers Jim and Sue Chilton, both friends of mine. Their ranch lies south of the small town of Arivaca and extends to the Mexican border which is “protected” by a four-strand barbed-wire fence.

Dear President Biden:
State and local Governments and, more importantly, families suffer from the flood of hard drugs smuggled into our country across the southern border.  Our motion-activated trail cameras document that more than one thousand smugglers and illegal entrants have crossed the international boundary in this rugged area through our ranch pastures south of Arivaca, Arizona.  We estimate that over half of the camouflaged Cartel mules recorded by our hidden cameras carry hard drugs into our country to poison our people.  Personally, we and our neighbors, as border Arizona ranchers, have had to live with the constant threat of this drug traffic for more than ten years since the Cartel took over this formerly unwalled, unguarded open pathway with no patrol road paralleling the border for their nefarious business.
Fisher Construction Company entered into a contract last year (2020) with the United States to construct a forty-two-mile barrier to halt unimpeded passage through this region’s border ranches and rural communities of illegal drugs, wanted criminals, sex traffic workers, and previously convicted and deported individuals. The contract was to close the open door between Nogales, Arizona and the Tohono O’Odham Reservation to the west. The work has been largely completed except for a five-mile gap.
Since Fisher Construction Company has purchased and located 100% of the steel bollards necessary to finish the work adjacent to the Border and since the cost of terminating the Fisher contract is estimated to be nearly equal to the cost of completing this work, it makes good sense to finish the portion now standing open. Clearly your initial decision to leave this work incomplete is welcomed by the drug runners, by their northern distribution network, and by their U.S. customers; it is not welcomed by law-abiding residents of this region who have been left with an illegal drug importation route running right through their ranches and delivering addiction to our fellow citizens.
We respectfully request you direct Homeland Security to honor the Fisher contract and complete the closure of this five-mile gap.
Respectfully,
Jim and Sue Chilton
CC:  Homeland Security, Border Patrol, Arizona Congressional Delegation
See also:

Examining the Effect of the Border Wall on Private and Tribal Landowners

Chilton vs Center for Biological Diversity

From Rep. Andy Biggs: Arizona Congressman Shares What US-Mexico Border Is Like Now

Comments on President Biden’s Policies

On his first days as president, Joe Biden issued dozens of executive orders that profoundly change U.S. policy on energy and climate. Many of the policies kill American jobs, but the Biden administration promises that those jobs will be replaced by new “green” jobs. Question: shouldn’t the “green” jobs have been created before killing existing jobs? The stated rationale for these changes is that we are in a “climate crisis” that is an “existential threat to the planet.” However, there is no physical evidence supporting the claim of a “climate crisis” or that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are the principal cause of the “crisis.” There is, however, physical evidence that all climate changes we have experienced fall within natural variation. The only crisis is purely political.

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” – George Orwell

Biden tells us to follow the science, but his policies demonstrate that he and his administration are ignorant of the science.

Read more at: https://wryheat.wordpress.com/people-for-the-west/2021-archive/2021-02-february/