Opuntia Biology

Opuntia in Habitat
Opuntia in Habitat

Biology is Important

Reproduction, DNA biology, and ecology are powerful drivers of Opuntia biology. Knowledge of these topics will help us understand opuntias. The genetics, biology, and speciation of Opuntia are poorly understood. In fact, opuntias remain a poorly studied group overall except for O. ficus-indica. This latter species is much studied. However, most of the information about O. ficus-indica relates to crop production, and it is difficult to apply crop production principles to derive basic principles. 


There are relevant publications about Opuntia reproduction and ecology. Our goal with this page is to provide access to some of the literature that does exist. This collection illuminates some areas of Opuntia biology, but also raises other questions. For instance, why is polyploidy common in the genus? What factors control hybridization? How do species remain stable in the face of sympatry? 

We also provide a number of articles on general principles in plant biology as they relate to various topics. For instance, an article that generally discusses plant speciation can provide insight to processes that may occur in opuntias

Opuntias are an amazing group of plants that have successfully adapted to hostile environments. They share many features with other cacti, but they have unique anatomies and some grow where other cacti do not (e.g., the eastern United States). We hope these articles help you appreciate them even more. 

The Publications

A cyclical relationship between Larrea tridentata and Cylindropuntia leptocaulis

A diffusion model for dispersal of Opuntia imbricata

A flora of southern Arizona–Cactaceae

A genomic view of introgression and hybrid speciation

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal status of Opuntia humifusa

A micromethod for recovery of DNA from Opuntia ficus-indica

Breaking seed dormancy in Opuntia rastrera

Cacti–biology and uses


Opuntia Glochid Tufts
Opuntia Glochid Tufts

Cactus insects of the USA

Cactus seed germination – a review

Chromosomes of Opuntia

Cytogeography of the humifusa clade of Opuntia

DNA arithmetic calculator

Endozoochorous dispersal of Opuntia seeds

Establishment of a micromethod for recovery of DNA from Opuntia ficus-indica for RAPDs

Evidence for hybridization and introgression within a species-rich community oaks

Effect of environmental heterogeneity on Opuntia germination

Effect of fungi on the germination of Opuntia

Genetics of Opuntia production in Mexico

Genome characterization of Opuntia ficus-indica

Germination of hard seed-coated Opuntia tomentosa

Germination responses of Opuntia spp. to temperature

Germination of Opuntia

Genome characterization of Opuntia ficus-indica

Gibberelins in Opuntia


Opuntia Pollen
Opuntia Pollen

Hardy-Weinberg equation

Hardy-Weinberg and alleles

Heterochrony and its role in sex determination of cryptically dioecious Consolea flowers

Hybrid speciation in plants

Hybridization and speciation

Hybridization, introgression, and the nature of species boundaries

The use of multivariate analysis of karyotypes to determine relationships between species of Opuntia

Insect pollination of prickly pears (Opuntia–Cactaceae)

Intriguing thigmonastic (sensitive) stamens in the Plains Prickly Pear Opuntia polyacantha (Cactaceae)

Karyotypic studies in Opuntia

Low levels of genetic differentiation between Opuntia echios varieties

Micro-method for genome characterization of Opuntia

Mixed reproduction systems in Opuntia monacantha

Molecular based assessment of genetic diversity of xoconostle

Molecular based assessment of genetic diversity within Barbary fig

Molecular characteristics of prickly pear cactus in Mexico


Opuntia orbiculata fruit
Opuntia fruit

Molecular studies of forage prickly pear cactus from Brazil

Morphological and structural study of Opuntia seeds

Morphological seeds descriptors for characterize and differentiate genotypes of Opuntia (Cactaceae, Opuntioideae)

Mountain scrublands, economy, social systems, and Opuntia in Peru

Multiple explanations for the elevated diversification of cacti in the New World Succulent Biome

Mycoflora in exhumed seeds of Opuntia tomentosa and its possible role in seed germination

Mycorrhizal associations in Opuntia humifusa in in Illinois

Nectaries on Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa

Nematodes as a possible cause of damage to Opuntia ficus-indica

Notes on the cochineal insect

Opuntia chromosomes

Opuntia cymochila–a species lost in the shuffle

Opuntia Stomate
Opuntia Stomate


Opuntia in Mexico–identifying priority areas for conserving biodiversity in a multi-use landscape

Opuntia polyacantha creates refuges for other plants

Prickly coexistence or blunt competition–Opuntia refugia in a rodent community

Phylogeny of the Opuntioideae

Phylogenetic relationships and evolution of growth form in Cactaceae

Phylogenetic relationships and morphological evolution in Opuntia s.str.

Phylogenetic Relationships in Opuntia from Southern South America

Phylogenetic relationships in the cactus family (Cactaceae) based on evidence from trnK/matK and trnL-trnF sequences

Phylogeny of Opuntia–clade delineation, geographic origins,  and reticulate evolution

Physio-ecological study of the jumping cholla, C. fulgida

Physiology of Opuntia and nurse plants

Phytoplasma associated with abnormal proliferation of Opuntia cladodes

Pigment evolution in the Caryophyllales–a systematic overview

Plains prickly pear  response to fire

Plant biological warfare–thorns inject pathogenic bacteria into herbivores

Plant sex determination and sex chromosomes

Plant speciation through chromosome instability and ploidy change–evolutionary relevance

miRNA expression during prickly pear cactus development


Opuntia blakeana cladode
Opuntia cladode

Plant speciation

Pollen grain characters of certain Cactaceae

Pollen morphology and reproductive performances in Opuntia ficus-indica

Polymorphisms in microsatellite markers in Opuntia of the Gallapagos Islands

Population dynamics of Cacti

Reproductive biology of Consolea spinosissima

Role of micromorphological leaf traits and molecular data in Oak studies

Serendipitous backyard hybridization and the origin of crops

Pollen morphology and reproductive performances in Opuntia ficus-indica

Pollination biology of Opuntia imbricata

Pollination of  Opuntia lindhemeri and related species

Pollination of the southwestern Opuntias

Polinator generalists of Opuntia sulphurea

Population dynamics of Opuntia macrorhiza

Reproductive Isolation in fragmented wild populations of Opuntia streptacantha

Reproductive biology of Opuntia

Reproductive Ecology of Opuntia macrocentra

Seed germination of Opuntia species from an aridity gradient in Central Mexico

Seed predation and dispersal in a dominant desert plant Opuntia, ants, birds, and mammals

Seed predation of two alien Opuntia species invading Mediterranean communities

Seed banks of Opuntia rastrera

Vertebrate frugivory and seed dispersal in Opuntia

Seed dormancy in Opuntia rastrera

Seed germination in Opuntia streptacantha

Scanning electron microscopy of Opuntia pollen

Stamen movements in flowers of Opuntia favor certain insects

Stimulation and promotion of germination of Opuntia ficus-indica

Storm-driven ocean dispersal of Opuntia

The effect of different amounts of cladode removal on reflowering of cactus pear


New Leaves on Opuntia
New Leaves on Opuntia

Stamen movements in flowers of opuntia

Scanning electron microscopy of Opuntia pollen

Sprouting flower buds of Opuntia

Spreading of Opuntia in overgrazed pastures in Kansas

The Fertilization of Opuntia

The Fruit of Opuntia

The Importance of Opuntia in Mexico and Cactoblastis invasion

The pollination spectrum of the southwestern cactus flora

The Role of Hybridization in plant speciation

The origins of an important cactus crop, Opuntia ficus-indica

The role of native flower visitors in pollinating Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill., naturalized in Sicily

The Hardy-Weinberg principle

The use of multivariate analysis for karyotypes opuntia

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