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Flaigg, Norman G.
Opuntia phaeacantha Engelm.
Tulip prickly pear, Brownspine prickly pear cactus, Purple-fruited prickly pear, Brown-spined prickly pear, New mexico prickly pear, Desert prickly pear
Synonym(s): Opuntia arizonica, Opuntia canada, Opuntia charlestonensis, Opuntia dulcis, Opuntia engelmannii var. cycloides, Opuntia gilvescens, Opuntia mojavensis, Opuntia phaeacantha var. brunnea, Opuntia phaeacantha var. camanchica, Opuntia phaeacantha var. major, Opuntia phaeacantha var. mojavensis, Opuntia phaeacantha var. nigricans, Opuntia phaeacantha var. phaeacantha, Opuntia phaeacantha var. superbospina, Opuntia superbospina, Opuntia woodsii
USDA Symbol: OPPH
USDA Native Status: L48 (N)
This prickly-pear cactus forms dense thickets 8 ft. across and up to 8 ft. tall, though usually shorter. Common to abundant in abandoned pastures and old fields on stony soil. Forms low patches of flat joints, stem segments, or horizontal lines of 3 or more joints standing on edge, some tinged reddish purple in winter. Spines of 2 kinds: one kind 1/2 to 2 inches long and single, or 2 or 4 together, gray to brown or yellowish, sometimes pointing downward, and the other kind minute ones in dense oval clusters from which the long spines arise. Flowers showy, yellow, often with a red center, up to 3 inches wide, opening in April and May. Fruit fleshy, up to 2 1/4 inches long, purplish, flattened to concave at the apex, tapering to the base.
The Desert Prickly-pear is an erect or sprawling shrub with fleshy fruit and brown to black spines. This species has a very wide range, and up to ten or more varieties have been described, making exact identification confusing. Usually the varieties are distinguished by pad size, spine distribution on the pad, spine color and size, and fruit length. The Desert Prickly-pear has adapted to both the deserts of Texas and the cool moist forests of the Rocky Mountains. It blooms from April to June.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Cactus/Succulent Leaf Retention: Evergreen Size Notes: Stem
pads may be up to 8in wide and 12in long, forming clumps often over 10ft in diameter. Flower:
Flowers 2 inches long Fruit:
Purple 2-3 inches long Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red , Orange , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul
, UT Native Distribution: UT,
& locally in KS,
s. to AZ,
& w. TX Native Habitat:
Sandy or rocky hills, flats, valleys & canyons
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Sandy or rocky soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: Not Available
Blooms ornamental, Showy Use Wildlife:
Seeds-Small mammals, Nectar-moths. Warning:
These cacti have sharp spines as well as tiny barbed hairs called glochids that can be difficult to remove from the skin. Conspicuous Flowers:
Butterflies Larval Host:
Yucca giant skipper butterfly.
Record Last Modified: 2010-11-05
Research By: TWC Staff