Opuntia columbiana

Opuntia columbiana
Opuntia columbiana

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

Lectotype; Lectotype; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium

Original Description

What is Opuntia columbiana?

Opuntia columbiana is a  small prickly pear cactus that occurs in northeast Oregon, eastern Washington, and in lower British Columbia, Canada.  


The plants form low mats with 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, (15)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.

O. columbiana is reported to be hexaploid (but see below, perhaps differing taxa are represented by O. columbiana). 

Other Notes

Some botanists report that O. columbiana resembles an O. fragilis hybrid over part of its range only. Though it may have hybrid origins, we find that at least some populations of this prickly pear appear to be stable and self-reproducing, if only clonally. Of interest is that some cladodes (on many plants) are often narrowly obovate (about 5 × 10-15 cm), unlike either of the proposed ancestral species. In contrast, O. columbiana is referred to as O. × columbiana by many botanists (e.g., Anderson, 2001) who maintain that this Opuntia is a prickly pear hybrid between O. polyacantha erinacea and O. fragilis and that it does not represent a stable, self-reproducing taxon. 

More study is needed to resolve the conflicting information about this taxon. Possibly the plants referred to here represent two or more taxa. 

O. columbiana is a small, hardy, cheerful garden plant. 

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