Art from around the Valley: Jen Salt’s “Prickly Pear Cactus”

Painting via Jen Salt

The Prickly Pear Cactus is native to Wisconsin and one of the best places to view these beautiful yellow treasures is at the Spring Green Preserve Natural Area.

Known as the “Wisconsin Desert”, the Preserve is very unique with it’s sandy floor and shifting dunes. The area has over forty various species of biennials and annuals and is home to many types of invertebrates such as lizards, spiders and tiger beetles.

Once you pull into the parking lot, you could almost imagine that you were out west with the Prickly Pear Cactus, sandy desert, sweeping prairies and high bluffs, which all bring a delicate beauty to an amazing landscape.

The Spring Green Preserve Natural Area is open to the public from dawn till dusk everyday and it’s free. The best ways to access the Preserve is to go north on Pearl Road from highway 14 or heading north on highway 23, turn right onto Jones Road and travel about a mile. Parking lot is on the left. Enjoy!

This Prickly Pear Cactus image was done in Prismacolor pencil and pastels and is 8” x 10”.

—Jen Salt, Contributor

Jen Salt is an artist who lives in a place she calls “Crow’s Lair Cottage” just outside of Spring Green where she’s lived for five and a half years. “The Wisconsin River was the draw to move here and I’ve never looked back, coming from a big city. This is home.”

More about the prickly pear cactus and the Spring Green Preserve

The prairie area where the prickly pear (Opuntia macrorhiza) is located has more like 200 species of plants represented. Over 350 species on the entire preserve including the wooded area. It’s a small species of cacti, rarely getting taller than about a foot tall.

Visitors at the Spring Green Preserve may observe that many of the pads are charred from a prescribed fire we did this spring. Visitors can rest assured, the species is adapted to routine fire and relies on fire for keeping an open sunny habitat free of brush.

The fruits will develop later in the summer and by August will bear dark red/purple spiny fruits that wildlife eat.

A brief reminder to visitors to please stay on the trail to protect the sensitive vegetation.

The trail from the Jones Road parking lot is about a mile and a half and leads up to the top of the bluff with some spectacular views.

—Hannah Spaul, Director of Land Management, The Nature Conservancy of Wisconsin