Opuntia ficus-indica

Opuntia ficus-indica fruit
Opuntia ficus-indica fruit

(L.) Miller, The Gardeners Dictionary: eighth edition Opuntia n. 2, 1768

Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; HerbariumPainting; Painting; Painting; Painting

Original Citation

What is Opuntia ficus-indica?

Opuntia ficus-indica is a prickly pear species derived from several wild ancestors. It is generally a spineless prickly pear, but some cultivars have spines. 

Details

O. ficus-indica is a large plant (tall and woody). It is actually a collection of Opuntia cultivars rather than a discrete species. The various cultivars probably have differing admixtures of genes from O. streptacantha, O. tomentosa, O. hypiacantha, O. megacantha, and O. leucotricha.  

It is not native to the United States but is included here because it has naturalized in essentially frost-free regions of the country. It was developed in Mexico where the young cladodes (nopales) are consumed as a vegetable and the sweet fruits (tunas) are enjoyed. This Opuntia may have been used as human food for up to 9,000 years. Spineless opuntias were chosen over the millennia while the crop was developed.

Many forms are octoploid, but multiple ploides have been reported which likely refer to its complicated heritage. 

Other Notes

O. ficus-indica is one of the most widespread opuntias in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica. It has become naturalized in many warms areas. O. ficus-indica grows well in mesic soils but tolerates some drought. It withstands high humidity and rain. It reproduces easily by clonal means and this facilitates its spread to the point where it is a serious weed in some areas, disrupting pastures and croplands. Britton and Rose described the plant as having a woody trunk and growing up to 3 m tall. 

Some clones of O. ficus-indica can hybridise with other Opuntia species in controlled settings, including O. lindheimeri, though it is not clear if the progeny of wide crosses are fertile or if such hybridization is frequent in Nature. 

One special use of O. ficus-indica is as a host for the cochineal insect (Dactylopius spp.). These scale insects grow on the surface of the plants. The female insects produce a red exudate (carminic acid) that may be a defensive chemical. The exudate is collected and used to make a red dye which is used in production of cloth, cosmetics, and food coloring, etc. 

This Opuntia was popularized as a source of animal or human food in the United States around the beginning of the 20th Century. But, its successful adoption was not achieved over a wide area in part because it is cold sensitive. It is still employed for as animal food in some situations. 

Article: The Origins of an Important Cactus Crop

Opuntia orbiculata

Opuntia orbiculata
Opuntia orbiculata

Salm-Dyck ex Pfeiffer, Enumeratio diagnostica cactearum hucusque cognitarum 156, 1837

Herbarium (as O. crinifera); Herbarium (seedling);  HerbariumHerbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Note: unless indicated otherwise, all herbarium specimens were submitted  as O. engelmannii; Herbarium (O. dillei); Herbarium; (O. dillei); Painting; Painting

Original Description

What is Opuntia orbiculata?

Opuntia orbiculata is a large prickly pear cactus that is found over much of the West. It may be semi-upright or may sprawl along the ground. It may be nearly spineless or have multiple spines. O. dillei is a spineless variant. 

Details

Opuntia orbiculata is a prickly pear cactus that may reach 1 m tall, but exceptional plants may be 1 1/2 m or 2 m tall. Small plants in cold areas may be 0.5 m tall or less. Unlike O. engelmannii it is often noticeably wider than tall for a large plant. The cladodes on this prickly pear are thick and may be 12-inches wide, or they may be smaller. Cladodes are often nearly circular (orbicular), but they may be spatulate, oval, obovate, or even obdeltoid. Often, pads on this prickly pear cactus have a bluish look to them, but this is not determinative. In clement growing conditions, the plants make close-branching shrubs. In drier locations the plants may be short and spreading; they may even have trailing prostrate branches. Spines on this Opuntia are variable, but are typically white or yellow, and they may have dark bases. They can be lightly curved or straight.

Flowers are yellow with green stigmas. Fruit is egg shaped, barrel shaped, or even subglobose. Fruit is umbilicate, reddish purple, and perhaps 5 cm by 6 cm. There is little or no suggestion of a narrowing at the base of fruits. Seeds are flattened, slightly angular, 3-4 mm in diameter. Seeds have a conspicuous marginal callus about 0.5 mm with a narrowly rounded margin. 

O. orbiculata is tetraploid.  

Other Notes

Like so many large opuntias, O. orbiculata is often misidentified as O. engelmannii because there is no slot for this cactus in guidebooks. O. orbiculata occurs in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, the desert mountains of Nevada and California, and northern Mexico. See a table comparing O. engelmannii with O. orbiculata

Details may be lacking, but evidence supports the name, Opuntia orbiculata, for plants on this page. First, the name (O. orbiculata) is valid, but it has a confused history. Material seen by Britton and Rose was assumed by them (and I have no reason to doubt they were correct) to be the same material that was named by Salm-Dyck. It was supposedly from South America, but Britton and Rose realized that this was in error and that it had to be from North America, likely northern Mexico. Nothing similar occurs in South America.

Based on the bits of information the authors have collected as well as the description of Britton and Rose, the plants shown on this Web page are correctly identified. There really aren’t any other candidates that fit. See the discussion and description by Britton and Rose, 1919. 

However, this uncertainty about the name suggests tentative use for now. If this name should be thrown out, the name, O. dillei (Griffiths, Annual Rep. Missouri Bot. Gard. 20: 82-83, 1909), was given to nearly spineless plants of the same taxon, and there is no ambiguity about that name (except for Benson’s incorrect belief that it was a hybrid).

As is typical of most Opuntia species, the plants are variable, and while many pads on many plants are nearly orbicular (circular), this is not a totally diagnostic trait. Oval, obdeltoid, obovate, and even spatulate pads are common. As with many Opuntia spp, rare pads may even have pointed ends. Pads are thick or thick appearing and fleshy seeming, more so than is the case in O. engelmannii or O. lindheimeri

 

Opuntia engelmannii

Opuntia engelmannii
Opuntia engelmannii

Salm-Dyck ex Engelmann, Boston Journal of Natural History 6(2): 207, 1850

Lectotype; Isotype (as O. gregoriana); Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium (as O. gregoriana); Herbarium (as O. gregoriana)

See O. lindheimeri

See checklist of differences between O. lindheimeri and O. engelmannii

Original Description

What is Opuntia engelmannii?

Opuntia engelmannii (including O. gregoriana) is a large western prickly pear. It has been confused with other large cactus species such as O. valida, O. discata, or O. orbiculata

Details

From Powell and Weedin: 

O. engelmannii has variable pads that are generally obovate, broadly elliptic, or orbicular. Pads may be 20-30 cm long and 15-25 cm in diameter. Under optimal conditions the pads of this Opuntia grow thick and heavy. The cladodes of O. engelmannii are pale-green and tend to stay that color year round unlike many opuntias that may have pink or purple pads in the winter. Spines are carried in the bird’s foot pattern and are chalky white, brown, tan, or even dull yellow–they darken considerably at the base. Some spines curve, but some may be perpendicular to the cladode surface. There may be as few as 1-2 spines or as many as 6 spines per areole. Radials may be present in mid-stem and upper stem areoles, 0.35-1 cm long, acicular.  

There is much spine variation in O. engelmannii, but one pattern is common. The thick spines are distributed over most areoles except the lowest. There are at least 3 spines splayed in a “bird’s foot” pattern. However, areoles with 2 or 4 (or even 5) spines are not uncommon, and weakly spined individuals also occur. The glochids of this Opuntia (and O. lindheimeri) are distributed in a distinctive pattern. They either circle the areole or are spread throughout the areole and are not generally arranged in a tuft. This is especially true of mid-stem areoles. The glochids are not densely crowded and are of unequal lengths, 3-5(9) mm.

The flowers of O. engelmannii are clear yellow without red centers. Orange venation may be observed on inner tepals on close examination. The yellow color in this Opuntia is not as brilliant as in O. lindheimeri. The large flowers are 7-8 cm in length and diameter. The filaments are cream-colored to pale green and 1-2 cm long. The style is cream-colored and the stigma lobes are green. The pericarpel is typically about 5.5 cm long and 3.2 cm in diameter. Scattered circular areoles with tan hairs and bristle-like glochids project from all parts of the pericarpel areoles.

Fruits of this Opuntia are deep purple, reddish–purple, or dark beet-red, and older fruits can be very dark. The barrel-shaped fruits are 5.5-8 cm long and 3.5-5 cm in diameter. Alternately the fruits may be of the same size but oval or obovate instead of barrel shaped. The fruits do not have an obvious narrowing or neck. The fruit pulp is dark red, very juicy, and very sweet. The generally spineless fruits of this Opuntia may have slender spines 5 mm long in some upper areoles. The seeds are small (2)3-4 mm in diameter and numerous, and they have a narrow hilar notch and a narrow beakless aril margin.

O. engelmannii is hexaploid.

Other Notes

O. engelmannii is the the tallest wild prickly pear from the Rio Grande River to California. This Opuntia is usually upright with upright branches, but some plants spread out wider than tall. It can can be 1-2(2.5) m wide and 1.5-2.5 m tall, but young plants are smaller. Plants in northerly locations or at high altitudes are smaller. The pads are typically egg-shaped, obovate, oval, or sometimes circular. Cladodes are green or or sometimes barely blue-green, but are seldom dark green. Pads may even be yellow-green when stressed.

Less-spiny-than-usual O. engelmannii plants in southeast New Mexico and near El Paso, Texas have been called O. gregoriana, but that taxon is considered synonymous with O. engelmannii herein. O. engelmannii ranges wide and far and there may be types that could be considered varieties. But varieties have not been formally described.

O. lindheimeri was validly described as a variety of O. engelmannii, but we accept it as a separate species herein. Though they are related, the two taxa are different. See the checklist of differences between O. engelmannii and O. lindheimeri.

 

Opuntia phaeacantha

Opuntia phaeacantha
Opuntia phaeacantha

Engelmann, Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Science n.s. 4(1): 51, 1849

Lectotype; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Painting

O. phaeacantha shares similarities with O. camanchica

O. phaeacantha shares similarities with O. gilvescens

Original Description

What is Opuntia phaeacantha?

Opuntia phaeacantha is a common and wide-ranging Opuntia (CO, OK, NM, UT, AZ, NV, CA, trans-Pecos TX, and Mexico) that forms a low, irregular, sprawling clump, sometimes with only one or two branches. In other areas with more plentiful rain or milder winters, O. phaeacantha has many branches and forms a mat 4(6)-ft across. 

Details

From Powell and Weedin, page 160:

Opuntia phaeacantha is a prickly pear cactus with weak stems. The stems of this cactus have less wood than the related O. camanchica. The pads of this Opuntia sag in winter and can even lie down flat on the ground as in O. tortispina or O. macrorhiza. Unlike O. tortispina, there are no sharply defined transverse wrinkles on the pads. The summer habit is erect, but sprawling and not ascending. O. phaeacantha is 10-50 cm tall and often in the short end of that range. However, it is generally taller than O. tortispina. Pads are obovate to broadly elliptic to suborbicular, 10-22 cm long and 9-18 cm wide, averaging larger than those of O. tortispina. Spines in this prickly pear are typically present over the upper three-fourths to one-half of the pad, but are not as numerous as in O. tortispina. Over much of its range, O. phaeacantha is often sympatric with O. polyacantha (northerly) or O. engelmannii (southerly). 

Flowers of this Opuntia are yellow with red centers, 5-7 cm long and wide, but in some areas other colors occur. Filaments and anthers are generally pale yellow. The style is cream to pinkish and the stigma lobes are yellowish to pale green or even deep green, a common arrangement in many prickly pear cactus species. The pericarpel is 2-4 cm long with scattered areoles. Flowers are known that are entirely yellow, orange, pink, or magenta.

The fruits are reddish and 3.5-4.4 cm long, 1.9-2.8 cm wide, turbinate or broadly clavate with a shallow or deeper umbilicus. Fruit pulp is bright red or pinkish and sweet. The seeds are 4-5 mm in diameter, discoid-reniform or irregularly orbicular, with a hilar notch, and a margin of about 0.5 mm.

The subapical areoles of this Opuntia are 2-5 cm apart, oblong to orbicular, 5-6 mm long, 3-5 mm wide, and filled with brownish hairs. The most common spine pattern in subapical areoles includes 2 spines situated in the center of the areole, one above the other. The lower spine is deflexed and often whitish. It is flattened proximally, terete distally, and 2-3 cm long. The second spine of this prickly pear cactus is immediately above the lower spine and is also deflexed, but less so. It is larger than the lower spine but is also flattened proximally and terete distally. It is 35-5(6.4) cm long and 1-1.3 mm in diameter. In many locations the larger spine may be twisted and white or tan. Other colors occur in different populations with some being quite dark. A third, often-shorter spine, may be present, but this spine may equal the upper spine in length. In some plants, in distal areoles, there may be 3 deflexed spines and 1 or 2 upper spines. Or there may be 2 deflexed spines. Many areoles in many populations have 2 (or more?) smaller radial spines—these are slender, needle like, 5-8 mm long, and often pale.

Opuntia phaeacantha is hexaploid.

Other Notes

Because it is so widespread and has so many expressions it seems clear that more study of this taxon is needed. Possibly there are varieties to be described. Or, perhaps there are two or more cryptic species contained within O. phaeacantha s.l. 

Oddly, the original description of O. phaeacantha is muddled and describes two different species.  Two different Opuntia species were combined in the original description of O. phaeacantha.  The first, a smaller prickly pear cactus, is the one that became O. phaeacantha.  The second, larger one, was named var. major by Engelmann and it grew in another location; this taxon is the same basic thing as O. dulcis.

In addition to the many specific epithets, many subspecific varieties of O. phaeacantha have been described including var brunnea (= O. camanchica), var major (= O. dulcis), var nigricans (= typical O. phaeacantha), var phaeacantha, and var superbospina. Many of the published varietal names are technically valid, they just don’t apply to O. phaeacantha, or they are absolute synonyms (e.g., nigricans is based on the type specimen of O. phaeacantha. Many garden variants of this wide-ranging species have also been described. See Green and Ferguson (2012) for more information about O. phaeacantha and names. Therefore, distinctive populations of this Opuntia have not been properly named. Proper identification and naming of multiple taxa may happen in the future, and perhaps new species will be separated out.


Opuntia cyclodes

Opuntia cyclodes
Opuntia cyclodes

Engelmann, Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 13(9): 309, 1911

Lectotype (deposited as O. engelmannii var cyclodes); Drawing (Bigelow, J.M., The Botany of the Expedition, 1856, plate VIII No. 1 [identified as O. engelmannii cyclodes])

Original Citation

What is Opuntia cyclodes?

Opuntia cyclodes is a little-studied, attractive prickly pear cactus from New Mexico. It has been called O. lindheimeri cyclodes and O. engelmannii cyclodes. But, it is a stand-alone species. 

Details

Cladodes are typically circular, 15-20 cm across in this Opuntia. Plants are 30-60(120) cm tall and sprawling. More than half or almost all areoles have spines. Often there is a single long spine sweeping down from the areole that may be accompanied by 1 or 2 much smaller spines. Some pads of this Opuntia have multiple spines in areoles. The current year’s spines are essentially always yellow or straw colored, but they may darken towards the base. The yellow spines make this plant distinctive. 

Flowers are yellow. The fruit is 1.5-3 cm in diameter. 

Ploidy is unknown. 

Other Notes

O. cyclodes was originally described as a variety of O. engelmannii. However, the two opuntias are visually distinct and intermediates are not found. O. cyclodes is found irregularly over much of eastern New Mexico, and in the El Paso, Texas area as well. Original reports placed it as far west as Stein’s Pass (Steins) in southwest New Mexico. The authors have observed this Opuntia in rocky, mountainous locations (eg, Villanueva State Park, New Mexico) and in flat, sandy areas (eg, Conchas Lake State Park, New Mexico). The type locality is “the upper Pecos” of New Mexico. 

 

Opuntia debreczyi

Opuntia debreczyi
Opuntia debreczyi

Szutorisz, Succulentes 4: 17, 2005

Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium

See O. fragilis

See O. polyacantha

Original Description

What is Opuntia debreczyi?

Opuntia debreczyi is a variable prickly pear cactus that often grows 5 to 11 cm tall and perhaps 20 to 30 cm across in an irregular manner. 

Details

Cladodes on this cactus are often egg-shaped and oval (or round) in cross section. However, cladodes are variable. They range in shape and size but are generally larger than those of O. fragilis (often much larger), and flattened joints are common. Unlike O. fragilis, the cladodes do not separate easily. Spines may be present or absent, short or long, depending upon the population in question, and up to 1-1.5 cm in length. 

Flowers may be anything from yellow to orange to magenta, with light-yellow, pink, or red centers. Some populations may be of mixed colors, but other populations are single colored. The style is pale and the stigma is green or light-green. The fruit is oblong or clavate and tan when dry at maturity. Seeds are flat, whitish, and 5-6 mm in diameter. 

Ploidy is unknown. 

Other Notes

O. debreczyi tends to grow on open, sloping ground in upland areas above the lower deserts; it is often found with other opuntias such as O. trichophora and O. polyacantha. It may also occur with O. fragilis, O. zuniensis, Pediocactus simpsonii, Sclerocactus parviflorus, and Escobaria vivipara. Alternatively, this prickly pear may occur in pure stands with no other species of cactus nearby. It grows in southwestern Wyoming and across western Colorado to eastern Utah. It barely reaches into northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico, but is not common in these latter states.  Similar plants occur on the Snake River Plains, across much of the Great Basin, and north to southern British Columbia, where they are almost invariably and incorrectly called O. fragilis or confused with O. columbiana

O. debreczyi may have O. fragilis– and O. polyacantha-like plants in its ancestry or vice versa. However, this prickly pear constitutes a stable, self-reproducing species. Wherever its origins, it is not now a hybrid of O. polyacantha and O. fragilis. Various popular names are applied to garden forms of this Opuntia species including O. rutila, Super Rutila, and O. polyacantha rutila.

The small plants are colorful and cold-hardy. They grow in many garden situations and are excellent garden plants. 

Opuntia dulcis

Opuntia dulcis
Opuntia dulcis

Engelmann, Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 3: 291, 1856

Lectotype; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; HerbariumHerbarium (as O. expansa); Herbarium (as O. expansa); Herbarium (as O. expansa); Herbarium (as O. expansa); Holotype (as O. eocarpa); Isotype (as O. eocarpa); Painting (as O. expansa); Photograph (O. expansa, Villa Nueva, NM)

O. dulcis shares similarities with O. camanchica

O. dulcis is related to O. confusa

Original Citation 

What is Opuntia dulcis?

Opuntia dulcis is a widespread, medium-sized prickly pear with sweet fruit, hence the name dulcis. It ranges from western Texas to Arizona. 

Details

From Powell and Weedin, 2004, page 169:

Opuntia dulcis is a more upright cactus than O. camanchica, and the spines are fewer and more slender. It is midway in size between O. phaeacantha and O. engelmannii. The pads are obovate to ovate and 16-25 cm long by 12-15 cm wide. There are 2-4 spines per areole in this prickly pear. While spines may be brown at their bases and white at the tips; they vary and may be other colors depending upon the population of this prickly pear.

The flowers are yellow with red centers and have slightly more tepals than O. camanchica. Filaments of this Opuntia are pale green to cream or colorless and about 1.5 cm long. Anthers are yellow and about 2 mm long. The style is rosy or white and 2-2.5 cm long. Stigma lobes are typically light green. When ripe the fruits of O. dulcis are red to purple, obovate to obconic, 3.5-4.5 cm long, 2.5-3 cm in diameter. The umbilicus of this Opuntia may be shallow or deep. The fruit is smooth with few areoles that have few glochids and few or no spines. The fruit rind is purple; the pulp may be pink, purple, red, or greenish—and juicy. Juice may be colored or clear and is sweet. Seeds are tan, irregularly discoid, 3.5-4.5 mm in diameter. They have a narrow hilar notch and a prominent aril margin 0.7-1 mm wide.

O. dulcis is hexaploid.

Other Notes

O. dulcis has been described as a variety of O. phaeacantha. However, throughout their overlapping ranges the two cacti are differentiable. O. dulcis is a larger plant with ascending branches, to 2(3) ft. Sometimes the major branches of O. dulcis may be prostrate with side branches rising to 20 to 30 cm. Though larger, immature specimens of O. dulcis may overlap in size with O. phaeacantha plants. O. dulcis resembles O. engelmannii in some ways but does not become as erect or large as that Opuntia can. O. dulcis is a woody plant whereas O. phaeacantha is not. The spines may be in the same arrangement as O. engelmannii, but are more slender. However, generally O. dulcis has fewer spines per areole than O. engelmannii

Opuntia dulcis is a happy garden plant with pretty flowers. However, in good soil with regular irrigation it can become large. 

Opuntia cymochila

Opuntia cymochila
Opuntia cymochila

Engelmann & J. M. Bigelow, Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 3: 295, 1856

Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Drawing (Bigelow, J.M., The Botany of the Expedition, 1856, plate XII No. 1-3)

O. cymochila can be confused with O. polyacantha

O. cymochila can be confused with O. tortispina

Original Description

What is Opuntia cymochila?

Opuntia cymochila is a small prickly pear cactus that was originally described from near Tucumcari, NM. It is the dominant grassland species of Opuntia on the Great Plains that has juicy fruit. 

Details

In many areas the pads are 6-10 cm long. However, pads are large in plants from western Kansas, and adjacent areas as well as in the drainage of the Rio Grand River. There are several spines per areole over much of the pad or just the upper half. Sometimes spines are sparse. There are 1-4(5) central spines that often spread downward, but 1 or 2 may be erect or even point upwards. There may be several radials that point downwards. Spines are often pale but may have brown bases, but in some areas spines are dark (e.g., in parts of the Rio Grande drainage). The pads shrivel horizontally in drought and in winter leaving creases on late summer and second year growth.  

Flowers of this Opuntia are 6-8 cm inches across with many ruffled petals. The flowers are typically yellow, but tepals may darken towards their bases—seldom producing red centers. Flowers may rarely be pink or magenta. The style is pale and the stigma is often medium- or dark-green, but pale stigma lobes may occur. Fruit is ovoid or ellipsoid, but narrows towards the apex making an acute rim. Fruit areoles are prominent with obvious glochids and perhaps a few smallish spines. The dull purplish-red fruits are juicy and sweet but mostly filled with seeds. The seeds are large, perhaps 6 mm across, irregularly discoid, with a broad obvious rim.

O. cymochila is hexaploid.

Other Notes

Though widespread in grasslands, O. polyacantha is more widespread. However, O. polyacantha fruit that is dry at maturity. Quite spiny plants of O. cymochila can be misidentified as O. polyacantha, but O. cymochila has juicy fruits and a different spine arrangement upon close examination. 

The synonym oplocarpa was used for O. cymochila from Golden, CO, and the synonym fusiformis was used for plants from eastern KS and Fort Smith, AK. This prickly pear also occurs in WY; the Dakotas and various Midwestern states; northern, central, and western Texas; New Mexico; and southeastern Utah. Britton and  Rose reported that this Opuntia was found from Wisconsin to South Dakota and south to Kansas, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. The range of this Opuntia in Mexico is unclear. 

O. cymochila can be confused with O. tortispina. See a table comparing O. cymochila with O. tortispina

Opuntia curvospina

Opuntia curvospina
Opuntia curvospina

Griffiths, Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 43: 88, 1916

HerbariumHerbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium

See O. phaeacantha, a proposed ancestral species.

See O. chlorotica chlorotica, a proposed ancestral Opuntia.

Original Description

What is Opuntia curvospina?

Opuntia curvospina is an interesting prickly pear cactus mentioned in the literature with 2 spellings, curvospina and curvispina. The original spelling by Griffiths (cited here) was curvospina.

Details

Very old plants of this prickly pear might be described as arborescent to over 1.3 m tall, but such are not commonly encountered. O. curvospina is usually shrubby with a compact or rounded crown. Pads of this Opuntia are generally round or nearly so and 10-22 cm in diameter. There are multiple spines per areole. The largest spines are yellow or brown yellow, and short spines may be whitish. Longest spines may be 3-6 cm long. The spines spread in all directions. 

Flowers are yellow and 6-7 cm in diameter, there may be a bit of red in the center of flowers as they age throughout the day. The red is never prominent.  The filaments are yellow and the style is white. The stigma is pale and large appearing. The fruit is dull-red on the outside with an abundant bloom. The rind is greenish and the pulp is nearly colorless. Fruit is oval 3.5-5  × 4.5-5.5 cm and slightly or deeply pitted. 

O. curvospina is tetraploid.

Other Notes

O. curvospina has been described as a nothospecies (O. ×curvospina). This prickly pear is proposed to be a hybrid Opuntia derived from cross of O. chlorotica chlorotica with O. phaeacantha, and perhaps it was originated that way in the distant past. If it originated as a hybrid there is no specific reason to assume O. phaeacantha was one parent because other small-to medium-sized species may have been involved, and they have not been investigated. 

In any event, these prickly pears constitute a self-reproducing and widespread group of cacti and are not a nothospecies. Herein, we consider O. curvospina to be a discrete, established Opuntia species. O. curvospina is found in Arizona (greater Kingman area and north) and adjacent portions of Nevada and California (it has been called the Searchlight Opuntia). It is often found in deep soils. The authors have observed it growing in dry washes alongside Yucca brevifolia north of Kingman, Arizona. The plants have a “look” reminiscent of O. chlorotica chlorotica, but they are also quite different, bushier (generally without a trunk), and smaller. They also clearly seem related to O. martiniana

Opuntia confusa

Opuntia confusa
Opuntia confusa

Griffiths, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 27(6): 28, 1914

Holotype; Isotype; Isotype; Isotype; Isotype; Isotype; Herbarium; Herbarium

See O. dulcis

Original Description

What is Opuntia confusa?

Opuntia confusa is an interesting prickly pear because some cladodes have spination similar to that of O. engelmannii, whereas other cladodes have spination similar to that of O. dulcis

Details

In some of the obovate to subcircular pads the spines are longer than on other pads. These longer spines are heavy, angular, and spreading as in O. engelmannii. Three or more major spines may be present. In contrast, spines on other pads are slender, one porrect and one deflexed (O. dulcis like). Thus, there are two different types of spination in O. confusa that occur on different pads of the same plant. 

The yellow flowers are 5-8 cm in diameter and darken to red or dark orange with age. Filaments are yellow and anthers are yellow. The style is pale and the stigma is green. Fruit is short-pyriform to subglobose and red. The fruit has a noticeable bloom that is lost at complete ripening at which time the fruit is dull red. Fruit spines may be reddish-brown. 

Ploidy is unknown. 

Other Details

O. confusa resembles O. dulcis in overall aspect and grows along side it in some locations. However, the two generally do not produce hybrids. The two prickly pears are similar in growth form and habit. However, when they are growing together it can be seen that O. confusa is always smaller, rarely reaching 40 cm tall, and O. confusa pads average smaller as well. 

O. confusa typically has large areoles with irregularly sized glochids that are scattered throughout areoles as in O. engelmannii. In contrast, O. dulcis generally has a tuft of glochids at the apex of an areole. O. confusa is a bluer plant than O. dulcis. Older (oldest) spines are darker on O. confusa than those of O. dulcis. The oldest spines of O. dulcis (on the oldest cladodes) may be black, especially in the western part of its range. See a table that compares  O. confusa with O. dulcis

O. confusa is medium-sized and an attractive  garden plant because the flowers darken to red or near-red. Some forms may be hard to USDA climate zone 7 or 8.