I knew that there were cactus locations in western Washington, but until this week I had never seen the rare for western Washington plant Opuntia fragilis. I would have missed this one all together except Todd had seen it on a previous trip to the same area and he had seen it only because someone had place drift wood around the plant to either protect it or mark its location.
I have heard of other cacti sites on the south side of Lopez Island, the west shore of central Whidbey Island and at Dungeness Spit. All of these sites share being located within the Olympic Mountain rain shadow and all are on well exposed dry sites. The same species is found in eastern Washington and up into the dry interior areas of British Columbia. I have encountered on the east side more often stepping into a patch - a rather unpleasant experience in light shoes.
This particular very small patch is located on a dry south facing slope on Decatur Island within an area of rock outcrops, grass covered slopes and a mix of Douglas fir and Gary oak. This particular species is very common in other areas of the dry west and is not much bothered by cold weather with a range well up into northern Alberta.