The Cactus Fruit

The creepy-cool cactus fruit...a before and after, if you will.

Opuntia, also known as the 'Prickly Pear' or 'Paddle Cactus'...mother of the cactus fruit.
These 'fruits' are all over the South Western desert, and depending on which time of year you happen to catch them, they're either happily in bloom or sadly fighting off the heat (like the rest of us).
They're a source of food for many out here (both the cactus itself *and* the fruit) but you can also find prickly-pear jelly in most organic grocers today. 
As they are growing, it's hard to imagine that anyone or anything (other than wildlife) would attempt eating these things; cactus needles are vicious, and you only need to puncture yourself once to know the immense pain.
However, it's during the summer months when you see what happens to the 'unclaimed' fruits (and there are many)...and the visceral power of the desert sun, burning the fruit as it grows and sprouts forward.
Having lived in the desert over 20 years, I'm used to seeing these things strewn about...
But one day, on a quiet desert walk I came across this unfortunate fruit, lying on the ground, almost visibly gasping for air. It's as if it had a face...and a voice. It was creepy...but that's life in the Valley of the Sun. 
best if viewed full-size
the coming of spring, and a newly-sprouted cactus fruit grows towards the sun...
don't try and pick it yourself! you *will* likely get injured!
as the summer heat rises, most fruits (whether from a cactus or other fruit-bearing tree) tend to fall to this same fate; literally being 'burned' on the branch...the last gasp of life on display before me here.
it actually 'looks' as if it's gasping for air, doesn't it? Creepy. Desert. Cool.
a couple of alternate views...
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