Opuntia cacanapa (incl O. ellisiana)

Opuntia cacanapa
Opuntia cacanapa

Griffiths & Hare, New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin (New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts) 60: 47, 1906

IsotypeNeotypeHolotype (O. cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’); Isotype (O. cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’); Herbarium (O. cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’)

O. alta is another arborescent Opuntia

What is Opuntia cacanapa?

Opuntia cacanapa is a large prickly pear cactus that occurs in Brewster County, TX and southeast to the Gulf Coast as well as in adjacent Mexico. It may also occur inland on the South Texas Plains where it is sympatric with other Opuntia species.


O. cacanapa can reach 2-2.5 m tall. The largest branches/trunk may be 16 cm in diameter. O. cacanapa forms a large, open, branching prickly pear with blue-green and glaucous cladodes. The cladodes are up to 20 cm in longest diameter and are suborbicular, oval, or obovate. The 4-5 cm long spines of this Opuntia are yellow and sometimes brown or reddish-brown at the base. Spines may curve out from the areoles. Some plants may lack spines in most areoles. The stigma of the yellow flowers is pale, yellowish-green, or pale green. The leaves are  strongly recurved, more so than in most Opuntia species. O. alta has recurved leaves, but they don’t curl back as strongly. 

O. cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ is garden variant of O. cacanapa that has no spines and essentially no glochids. O. cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ may seem different from the parent Opuntia. However, O. cacanapa and O. cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ share key features that demonstrate their relatedness: 1) strongly recurved leaves on cladodes and flowers, 2) pale stigmas with white styles, 3) white filaments with yellow anthers, 4) general shape and size of the fruits, 5) obovate or subcircular cladodes, 6) identical bloom periods, and 7) shrubby or arborescent growth. 

Lack of spines is a feature of some Opuntia species and is not unknown. However, lack of glochids is a very unusual condition in any prickly pear.

See the original description. O. cacanapa is diploid.

O. cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ is cold hardy to about zero F, and without spines or glochids, it is a wonderful garden plant. It is not fast growing and can be kept small by pruning. 

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2 thoughts on “Opuntia cacanapa (incl O. ellisiana)”

  1. Would you happen to know where I might be able to find Opuntia cacanapa seeds in bulk. I am looking to plant around 13 acres of it.


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