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Cactus in Iowa

This series of pictures shows the traits and presence of the prickly pear cactus in different seasons in its natural habitat of sand dunes in Eddyville, Iowa. 

Eddyville Sand Dunes, Eddyville, Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • How did the prickly pear end up in the dunes?  
  • What specific traits do these cacti have that give them a competitive advantage over other plants in the area? 
  • What environmental conditions allow for their growth in the dunes and not in other locations in Iowa?
  • What conservation management strategies would enhance or limit the proliferation of the prickly pear cactus in the dunes? 
  • How does the type of soil impact the survival of the prickly pear cactus? 

Classroom Suggestions

  • Use quadrat sampling and soil testing of different areas around the schoolyard to make comparisons of the plant and soil diversity.  
  • Use the data from their sampling to construct explanations (using claim, evidence and reasoning) of why certain plants are found where they are located.
  • Predict the biodiversity/organisms of a specific area in the Eddyville Dunes or their schoolyard in 20 years based on reproductive advantage and competition of resources. 

Related Resources

Iowa Core Alignment

Life Science
High School (9-12)
Disciplinary Core Idea
LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Credit Info

Submitted by Michelle Seddon. 


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