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Opuntia basilaris (Beavertail prickly pear)
Gammill, Lynn Crosby

Opuntia basilaris

Opuntia basilaris Engelm. & J.M. Bigelow

Beavertail Prickly Pear, Beavertail Pricklypear, Beavertail Cactus

Cactaceae (Cactus Family)


USDA Symbol: opba2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Flat, grayish-green, leafless, jointed stems in a clump, lack large spines and have vivid rose or reddish-lavender flowers on upper edge of joint. Beaver-tail Cactus is a low-growing prickly pear, 4-16 in. high, with brilliant, magenta flowers. The pads of this cactus lack the long, straight spines of other prickly pears but are covered with miniscule, gray-blue bristles with barbed tips.

The gray-green stems, low growth, and brilliant flowers, which often nearly cover the plant, make this a popular ornamental in hot, dry climates. It need not be dug up; a joint broken from a plant will quickly root in dry sand. Opuntia with flat joints are called Prickly Pear. In the Southwest, if the fruits are juicy and edible, they are called tunas by people of Spanish-American heritage. The fruits of Opuntia basilaris, though, are hard and dry. They are not utilized as food.


From the Image Gallery

16 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 16 inches high, almost oval joints 4-8 inches long.
Flower: Flowers 2 1/2 to 3 1/4 inches long and across.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Pink , Purple
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr , May , Jun
Bloom Notes: Diurnal.


USA: AZ , CA , NV , UT
Native Distribution: S.w. UT to s. CA, s. to n. Mex.
Native Habitat: Rocky or sandy plains, valleys, washes & canyons in deserts

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Sandy or gravelly soils.
Conditions Comments: Minimum temperature 45F

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Sow seed.
Seed Treatment: No treatment is necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA


Bibref 1140 - Cacti (1991) Clive Innes and Charles Glass
Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Opuntia basilaris in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Opuntia basilaris in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Opuntia basilaris


Record Modified: 2023-03-14
Research By: TWC Staff

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