Opuntia atrispina

Opuntia atrispina
Opuntia atrispina

Griffiths, Annual Report Missouri Botanical Garden 21: 172, 1910

Holotype, Isotype, Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; HerbariumHerbarium; Drawing (Britton and Rose, v1 1919, plate XXV, top right)

Original Citation

What is Opuntia atrispina?

Opuntia atrispina is an early flowering, attractive prickly pear cactus from Texas and adjacent Mexico.


Plants may be up to 90 cm tall, but more normally they are 50 cm or less. They may spread to 1 m. Cladodes on this cactus are green and 10-15 cm wide by 10-20 cm long and egg-shaped, obovate, or circular. The plants are densely branched. The round spines of this Opuntia are unique because they are a distinctive rich dark red-brown, dark brown, or even jet black at their bases and light tan or yellow on their distal portions. The transition is abrupt and this two-tone coloring provides a and attractive and distinctive look.

Fully opened flowers are 4-5 cm across. Filaments are yellowish distally and greenish proximally. The style is white. Stigmas are yellow, greenish-yellow, or even cream-colored. The flowers are also distinctive because they open cream-colored or white-yellow and change to salmon, pink, red, or even tan-pink.  Moreover, newly opened flowers can have a hint of green in the center. 

O. atrispina is diploid. 

Other Notes

The distribution of this prickly pear is limited in the United States, extending from the Uvalde, Texas area to near Del Rio and Langtry, TX. It has a larger distribution in Mexico. Briton and Rose reported that this Opuntia can be over up to 1 m tall and up to 1.3 m wide. But, these large plants are seldom seen today. 

Single plants may wear flowers of three or more cheerful colors as the flowers age making this Opuntia a good garden plant. Ultimate hardiness is unknown, but perhaps it is hardy to zero F. 

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