Opuntia pyrocarpa

Opuntia pyrocarpa
Opuntia pyrocarpa

Griffiths, Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 43(2): 90, 1916

Isotype; Isotype; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium (O. griffithsiana); Herbarium (O. griffithsiana); Herbarium (O. reflexa); Herbarium (O. convexa); Painting; Painting (O. convexa)

Original Description

What is Opuntia pyrocarpa?

Opuntia pyrocarpa is a commonly encountered prickly pear cactus in south-central to north-central Texas where it often grows in deep, limestone-derived soils. It is found in Mexico and perhaps Oklahoma, and it may be in other parts of Texas. 


O. pyrocarpa is an ascending spreading plant to 1 m tall. Often the main branches of this prickly pear cactus are prostrate but ascend at the ends. The cladodes are large, approximately 25(30) × 15(20) cm, or they may be smaller in some plants. The cladodes may be constricted at the base to form a short neck, or this feature may be lacking. The spines are porrect in new cladodes, but often slope down with age. Spines are present on the upper 50% to 60% of the areoles and are yellow darkening to a brown base. Spines are 2 to 3 cm long.

The flowers are yellow with light-red centers or pure yellow. This Opuntia has a white style tipped with a light-green stigma. The petals are irregularly cleft or even nearly bifurcated. The fruit is long, pyriform, and various shades of carmine, often with a purplish tinge outside and inside.

Ploidy is unknown. 

Other Notes

O. pyrocarpa may form large plants that create piles of cladodes spread over 6-8 feet, making up for lack of height by achieving breadth. Or prostrate ascending branches by reach upwards to 100 cm. Several large plants growing together can create a formidable thicket. The species occurs with others found in Texas such as O. lindheimeri, O. macrorhiza, and O. orbiculata, etc. The type location is Marble Falls, Texas. 

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