Opuntia columbiana

Opuntia columbiana
Opuntia columbiana

Griffiths, Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 43: 523, 1916

Lectotype; Lectotype; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium

What is Opuntia columbiana?

Opuntia columbiana is a prickly pear cactus that occurs in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. Opuntia columbiana is referred to as O. × columbiana by some botanists (Anderson, 2001) who maintain that this Opuntia is a prickly pear hybrid between O. polyacantha erinacea and O. fragilis


Some botanists report that O. columbiana resembles an O. fragilis hybrid over part of its range only. Perhaps this Opuntia represents two or more cactus species that need more study. Though it may have hybrid origins, at least some populations of this prickly pear appear to be stable and self-reproducing if only clonally. This fact suggests that O. columbiana may be a stand-alone taxon and we regard it as such lacking other information. Also interesting is that some cladodes (on many plants) are often narrowly obovate (about 5 × 10-15 cm), unlike either of the proposed ancestral species.

The plants form low mats with fragile cladodes that are flattened, narrowly to broadly obovate, and fragile. Second year growth may be yellowish green. Major spines are present in most areoles, reflexed to porrect and yellowish to gray-white to brown, (20)25-40(50) mm long. Radial spines are also present. 

Flowers are yellow, 30-50 cm across. Filaments are red or brownish-red, anthers are yellow. The style is white and the stigma is green. Fruits are seldom set. Seeds are tan and 5-7 mm across. The protruding girdle is 1-1.5 mm. See the original description. O. columbiana is hexaploid. 

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