Clumps of the cactus Opuntia fragilis growing in association with mats of the lichens Cladina mitis, Cladina rangiferina and a spikemoss, Selaginella rupestris, were discovered in an agricultural field in Pepin County, Wisconsin, that had been abandoned for over 50 y. The association appeared to be beneficial to the cactus, which flowered almost exclusively in the presence of lichens. Of 294 cactus clumps examined in 2001, 127 grew in the presence of lichen mats and, of these, 24 flowered, producing 91 flowers, while none of the cacti growing in the absence of lichens flowered. In 2002, 19 out of 265 cactus clumps flowered, all but one in the presence of lichens. All sizes of cacti in the presence of lichens flowered and the probability of flowering increased with cactus size. In addition, the cacti that flowered had cladodes that were on average 19% heavier than those of cacti that did not flower. The presence of lichens lowered summer soil temperatures 2a??4 C compared to soil temperatures in the absence of lichens. Cooler soil temperatures conserve soil moisture better, which may enhance flowering in these cacti.
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Lichens promote flowering Opuntia fragilis in west-central Wisconsin