Opuntia cymochila

Engelmann & J. M. Bigelow, Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 3: 295, 1856

Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; HerbariumDrawing (Bigelow, J.M., The Botany of the Expedition, 1856, plate IX No. 1-3)


Opuntia cymochila was originally described from near Tucumcari, NM. The synonym oplocarpa was used for plants from Golden, CO, and the synonym fusiformis was used for plants from eastern KS and Fort Smith, AK. The species also occurs in WY; the Dakotas and various Midwestern states; northern, central, and western TX; NM; and southeastern UT. (Britton and  Rose reported that O. cymochila was found from WI to SD, TX, KS, CO, and NM.) Its range in Mexico is unclear. It is the dominant grassland species of Opuntia that has juicy fruit (O. polyacantha has fruit that is dry at maturity). See the original description. O. cymochila is hexaploid.


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Britton and Rose described O. cymochila under the name of O. tortispina.

“Prostrate and creeping; joints ascending, orbicular to obovate; 15 to 20 cm long; areoles 1.5 to 3 cm apart, spines several, often 6 to 8, the upper and longer ones 3 to 6 cm, either white, yellowish, or brown, on the upper areoles one spine erect, the others spreading or with the lowermost ones deflexed; the flowers sulphur-yellow, 6 to 7.5 cm broad; fruit rather large, 4 to 5 cm long, 2 to 3 cm broad.”

In reality, the name O. tortispina belongs to a similar but slightly larger and more southern species that is distinct and different. O. cymochila is often lumped into the catch-all species, O. phaeacantha, as is O. tortispina.

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