One of the most popular trails in Bella Vista is home to a unique species – at least in this part of the country.
A small garden of Prickly Pear Cactus has been thriving recently along the Tanyard Creek Nature Trail thanks to a group of 20 POA volunteers who discovered it and continue to maintain it for visitors to enjoy.
“While working on maintenance duties with volunteers we found the cactus approximately three to four years ago,” Tanyard Creek Nature Trail Volunteer Ray Matkowski said. “It was overgrown with weeds, shading the cactus. I love cactus and we try to keep the weeds from overtaking it and keeping the are neat for visitors.”
Randy Hamm, chairman of the Tanyard Creek Nature Trail Volunteers, says the hard work is paying off.
“Ray and Jerry have taken a special interest in the cactus, which, as far as I know, grows in just this one area of the Tanyard Creek Nature Trail,” Hamm said “Under Ray’s leadership, these two have opened up this area to sunlight and kept the underbrush mowed down so the cactus can thrive. As a result of their efforts, this summer we’re seeing blooms for the first time. It’s worth a short side trip off the main trail to see it.”
According to fellow Tanyard Creek Nature Trail volunteer Jerry Butler, the cacti are a remnant of a glade, a natural formation once common in the Ozarks.
“Our glade, strictly speaking, no longer exists, but the cactus has survived,” Butler said. “Glades once formed on the tops or upper reaches of rocky elevations, created by fires sweeping up to the hilltops, making clearances devoid of shrubs and trees. Most of the soil washed away over time with no plants to hold it in place, but prairie grasses, wildflowers, and prickly pears would sprout and hold on.”
Since the prickly pear was discovered, the volunteers have knocked down surrounding shrubs, mowed weeds and have turned what was a cactus patch into a garden.
“Where we can see the plants thrive and blossom – a memory of a glade,” Butler said.
Matkowski said while prickly pear might be considered a nuisance in some areas of the country, area residents love it.
“The blooms are beautiful,” he said. “Make sure you visit our cactus patch!”