opuntia cacti forest galapagos

Dallas Krentzel/ CC BY 2.0/ flickr: Dallas Krentzel

This photo of a veritable forest of Opuntia cacti (Opuntia echios), also known as the Galapagos prickly pear, was taken on the coast of Santa Cruz by Dallas Krentzel. He writes that the cactus on the left is probably around 26 feet tall and that the upper height range for this particular species is around forty feet.  Opuntia echios is endemic to the Galapagos Islands and there are five varieties, each with different appearance and distribution, found throughout the archipelago. There are four other species of Opuntia, in addition to Opuntia echios, found in the islands, each with a particular distribution. One species, Opuntia megasperma, is an important source of food, water, and shade for Galapagos giant tortoises.