Opuntiaaurea is a prickly pear cactus that grows in southern UT and northern AZ. It is prostrate and forms irregularly sprawling plants to about 1 m across. A single pad may grow upright now and then.
The cladodes are often oval but may also be broadly obovate up to 10(15) cm long. Cladodes have a thick look and they may become pink or purple in winter. Areoles on this Opuntia may be slightly sunken. O.aurea may be spineless or may have a few spines to multiple spines. Spines may be in the distal areoles only or on the faces of the cladode too. Excessively spiny plants are presumed to represent introgression from adjacent species, including O.nicholii. Flowers are pale-yellow, yellow, apricot-pink, and even strongly pink. Seeds are often circular and up to 4 mm in diameter or a bit more. Fruits of this prickly pear typically have no spines, but there may sometimes be one or more at the apex.