Engelmann. 1852. American Journal of Science, and Arts, ser. 2, 14 (42): 338.
Cylindropuntia prolifera occurs along the coast of southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico. It is a tall shrub to tree-like species growing to 2.5 m tall. The terminal stems are very easily detatched and range from 4 to 15 cm long by 3.5 to 5 cm wide. Areoles have 6 to 12 red-brown to brown spines with pale yellow-brown sheaths. The flowers are rose to magenta to red with filaments and styles that are yellow-green at the base and pink to magenta at the tips. The stigmas are white to yellow. An interesting feature of C. prolifera‘s floral morphology is that it occasionally produces stigmoid anthers — anthers that appear like stigmas. The fruits are green, fleshy, and generally seedless. The specific epithet prolifera refers to the proliferating or chaining of the sterile fruits. Cylindropuntia prolifera is mainly triploid (2n = 33), however, diploid individuals have been found. Like its fellow triploids C. fulgida and C. bigelovii, C. prolifera mainly reproduces clonally. RAPD evidence indicates C. prolifera originated as a hybrid between two species of northern Baja California: C. alcahes and C. cholla.