Caught in a Prickly Pear

Yesterday I was writing a scene that took place outside of a Texas town. The year is 1873. The hero and heroine are riding to a cattle ranch. I want to have a good description of the American West, so I have my heroine lean over the saddle to study some interesting plant life.

Wait a minute. What kind of plant life?

I begin to backtrack. The story is now in midsummer, so it's hot. The climate is arid in their part of Texas, which means the ground is dry. What plant can thrive in that weather, and is so cool-looking that the hero has to tell his lady love to watch that she doesn't fall off the horse?


This is when I start to recall my trip to the canyon near Amarillo last month. Those prickly pear cacti sprouting from the ground were pretty impressive. But...that was the Texas panhandle. Can I move the prickly pears to the central region of the state, say, near Denison?

At this point, I have to save my work on Word and do some quick research. On the internet, I look up native plants of Texas. Ah! Prickly pear do indeed grow in that region. Some even get as far up as the east coast on Long Island. Interesting.

Now I know prickly pear cactus by its broader Latin name Opuntia. Another click of the mouse and I find that some subspecies are edible. Did you know that you can make jelly from cactus figs? I didn't either. And if you did know, then please send me your email so I can just contact you the next time I have a research question!

As you probably guessed, a significant amount of time went by. I got too caught up in a subject that only needed quick referencing. My heroine is not going to get off her horse and cry, "Wait! I know a great jelly recipe for these prickly pears!"

Has this ever happened to you? Share your funny research moments!