Calumet Quarter at Rainbow Beach Dunes

25 May

CQ students 2016-05-20

Students from University of Chicago’s Calumet Quarter visited Rainbow Beach Dunes to learn about stewardship, urban nature areas, and prickly pear cactus!

Here’s a blog post from student Saul Levin:

The Cacti at Rainbow Beach Dunes

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my strongest impressions and most pressing questions following our visit to Rainbow Beach Dunes are about the “sexiest”[1] part of the dunes: Opuntia humifusa, more commonly known as Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus.[2]

I was interested by the impressive abundance of the cacti at the site we visited, especially when I discovered that its abundance is not consistent across its range. The prickly pear cactus has no unusual legal status at the federal level, but it is listed as rare vulnerable, or endangered in three states.[3]  The cactus owes its abundance in part to its ability to reproduce in three different ways.[4]  O. humifusa can reproduce through pollination and seeding. Detached segments can also travel on passing animals or simply fall off and roll away, taking root nearby. A third option called “layering,” in which still attached segments input new roots into the soil, explains why it is so difficult to distinguish adjacent plants from one another.

Read the rest of Saul’s article here, and view the gallery from their May 20 trip here.



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