Brown-Spined Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia phaeacantha)


Description: 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.

Family: Cactaceae

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

Duration: Perennial

Habit: Cactus/Succulent

Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Color: Red, Yellow, Orange

Bloom Time: Apr, May, Jun, Jul

Water Use: Low

Light Requirements: Part Shade

Soil Moisture: Dry

Bloom Notes: Soil Description: Sandy or rocky soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Warning: These cacti have sharp spines as well as tiny barbed hairs called glochids that can be difficult to remove from the skin.

ATTRIBUTION: All of the Texas Wildflower images in this post are copyrighted and are the exclusive property of Terry B. Kahler. Reproduction without explisit written consent is prohibited. Some of the information contained in this section was taken from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website and is being used under their terms of use. Redistribution from this site is prohibited. Additional information contained in this section was taken from the USDA website including the USDA code.

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Missing Images: Close-Up, Fruit-Seed

Data Completeness: Complete

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