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Opuntia

Cactaceae Opuntia (L.) Mill.
 Gard. Dict. Abr., ed. 4. [974]. 1754 [28 Jan 1754]
   Commonly known as Prickly Pear Cactus, this genus of about 250 subtropical species ranges in size of small prostrate plants to tree forms.  Opuntias are known for the fruit of some species, for their glochids, and for lacking ribs.  The small glochids have dozens, if not hundreds of tiny barbed bristles that the plant release easily into hands or clothing, so Opuntias can become quite irritating in the wrong situations.  While long impressive spines are present in only some species, all Opuntias have these glochids, and they are unique to the genus.  Opuntia forms include shrub like or tree like branches of fleshy pads, such as Prickly Pear Cactus, and long, cylindrical stems, such as chollas.
 
Opuntia  basilaris   Engelm. & J. M. Bigelow
Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts 3: 298 [preprint p. 51]. 1856 [Mar ? 1856]
Beavertail Cactus -
very low water requirement full sun exposure
 





   Native to Southwestern United States.
*This site is not affiliated with Descanso Gardens
 
Opuntia cylindrica   (Lam.) DC.
Prodromus 3 1828
(Cactus cylindricus)
very low water requirement
Native to Peru.

 
Opuntia cylindrica cristata  
very low water requirement part shade exposure


 
Opuntia  engelmannii   Salm-Dyck ex Engelm.
Boston J. Nat. Hist. 6(2): 207 (-208). 1850 [Jan 1850]
Englemanns' Prickly Pear -
very low water requirement full sun exposure
 




  
Native to Mexico.
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Opuntia microdasys   (Lehm.) Pfeiff.
Enum. Diagn. Cact. 154. 1837
(Cactus microdasys)
very low water requirement full sun exposure


 
Opuntia microdasys - Monstrose form  
Bunny Ears -
very low water requirement full sun exposure




   This small shrub cactus, growing to 2' tall or more, has irregular, slightly curved pads, covered with bright yellow glochidsNative to North and South America, this species likes plenty of sun, but may yellow in intense heat.  O. microdasys takes easily from pad cuttings, and it grows well in containers, but requires good drainage.

 
Opuntia microdasys var. rufida   (Engelm.) K. Schum.
Gesamtbeschr. Kakt. 706. 1898
(Opuntia rufida)
very low water requirement full sun exposure


   This moderate grower is covered with glochids, each packed with distinct orange brown bristles contrasting on bright green pads.  These hundreds of tiny bristles easily break off into skin, making these some of the more dangerous glochids of the genus.  From a distance, however, this Mexican native makes a beautiful specimen. And luckily it thrives on neglect.  It needs almost no water to survive, and it propagates easily from pad cuttings (wear gloves).

 
Opuntia  monacantha  fa. monstrose variagata
low water requirement
 
   
 
Opuntia  robusta   Wendl.
Cat. Hort. Herrnh. (1835); ex Pfeiff. Enum. Diagn. Cact. 165.
(Opuntia camuessa)
Prickly Pear -
very low water requirement full sun exposure
 

   This Mexican native grows over 6' tall and has circular pads, over 1' in diameter.




*This site is not affiliated with Descanso Gardens
 
Opuntia species  
Prickly Pear -
very low water requirement full sun exposure



   This particular species has small bright reddish-orange flowers borne on the upper edge of the pads.  This is a small fast growing shrub with three to four inch long by half inch thick green pads, with half inch long whitish spines.

 
Opuntia violacea   Engelm.
in Emory, Notes Mil. Reconnois. 157.
(Opuntia marcrocentra)
Prickly Pear -
very low water requirement full sun exposure



   This quite striking southwest U.S. native grows to 4' tall and 6' wide, and in spring has three inch wide bright yellow blooms with deep red throats.  O. violacea is recognized for its year round light purplish green pads, that turn rich purple in cool weather.

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Opuntia
Opuntia page last updated: April 10, 2010.