In my recent internet browsing, I happened upon an odd fact of botany—there is a cactus which is native to eastern North America, the Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa). It occurs across the eastern half of the United States, and even in a few locations in southern Ontario.
It turns out that I saw, and photographed, some of these cacti during my vacation in Virginia Beach a few years ago.
Here are some prickly pears interspersed with other vegetation, near the beach.
Here is an isolated example from First Landing State Park.
I had previously thought that the cacti which I saw in coastal regions were exotics which had been introduced by humans, and then thrived in the sandy, desert-like beach conditions, in much the same way as the Texas Horned Lizard.
In fact, according to this site, the Eastern Prickly Pear is native to Fairfax and Prince William Counties (although I can’t think of any possible location in Fairfax or Prince William County that would be suitable cactus habitat).
(Well really that site says that the Eastern Prickly Pear is “naive” to Fairfax and Prince William Counties, but I assume that they meant “native”.)