Opuntia laevis

Coulter, Contributions from the U. S. National Herbarium 3: 419, 1896

Holotype; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; HerbariumHerbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; HerbariumDrawing (Britton and Rose, v1 1919, plate XXVIII, No. 1, back right)

Details

Opuntia laevis grows in various locations in southern AZ but particularly on canyon walls rather than floors. Many plants are naturally spineless and are sometimes misidentified in gardens as Burbank’s spineless cactus or even O. cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’. Other individuals have a few short spines at the tips of cladodes or along the surface, but just a few. Cladodes may be large, up to 4(5)-inches wide and up to 12-inches long. The fruit is long, and the umbilicus is deep. A proposal has been made to place O. laevis as a variety of O. engelmannii, but we continue to accept O. laevis as a stand-alone species. Britton and Rose reported that the plant is found in the mountains around Tucson, AZ. See original description. O. laevis is hexaploid.

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It would be tempting to lump O. laevis into O. canada (or vice versa), but the two are consistently different. O. canada is much more likely to be found away from the steep slopes even though it grows near the mountains. O. laevis is usually spineless, and its seedlings are not hairy. When grown together, or when in fruit, the two plants are easily distinguishable. However, the precise relationship between the two is unknown.

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