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. 


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. 


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