Opuntia charlestonensis

Opuntia charlestonensis
Opuntia charlestonensis

Clokey, Madrono 7(3): 71, 1943

Isotype; Isotype; Isotype; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium

Original Description

What is Opuntia charlestonensis?

Opuntia charlestonensis is a prickly pear cactus that occurs from about 6,000 to 8,000 ft in Kyle Canyon on Mt Charleston, Nevada. It is proposed to be a hybrid taxon derived from two species, O. phaeacantha and O. polyacantha erinacea.


Plants may be 20 to 40 cm tall and up to 1.5 m across. They are generally prostrate, but short branches of a few cladodes may arise from prostrate main branches. Cladodes are oval or obovate and 10-20 cm long and 7-14 cm wide. Cladodes may be strongly purple in the winter and spring. Spines (4-6) are light in color and spreading in all directions.

O. charlestonensis has yellow or canary-yellow flowers that darken late on the day of anthesis; there may be a blush of red in the flower centers. Flowers are 4-5 cm across. Stamens and anthers are yellow as is the style and stigma. However, the style may be tinged with red. Fruit is oval and dull reddish-purple with a green pulp. Seeds are flat and 4-5 mm in diameter.

O. charlestonensis is pentaploid.

Other Notes

O. charlestonensis is sympatric with the two proposed parental Opuntia species, but O. dulcis also grows in Kyle canyon. This latter Opuntia has not been investigated as a possible parent. 

This prickly pear was originally (1943) only known from Kyle Canyon on Mt. Charleston, NV. However, in 2014 a population of this Opuntia was reported in CA where it also seems to be formed by hybridization. 

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