Engelmann, Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 3: 298, 1856
Opuntia rufida is a prickly pear cactus that occurs in the Big Bend area of Texas and south into the greater Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico. The much-branched cactus may reach 1 to 1.5 m and a bit wider. The plant generally has a trunk, and pads are subcircular, obovate, or elliptical, 8 to 25 cm across. The pads are thickish and tomentose. The flowers are yellow to orange and 4 to 5 cm long including the ovary. The filaments are greenish white and the style is 1.5 cm long and bulbous above the base. The fruit of this Opuntia is bright red, umbilicate and globular. The species makes up for its total lack of spines with a profusion of glochids. Britton and Rose reported that this species is less common than, and is sometimes confused with, O. microdaysys, another spineless prickly pear sympatric with O. rufida in Mexico. However, the glochids of O. microdasys are generally pale. Also, unlike O. microdasys, O. rufida has reniform to circular cladodes. Also, O. microdasys may be a shorter plant. See the original description. O. rufida is diploid.
Though the flowers of this Opuntia are not especially memorable, O. rufida is statuesque; it would be a spectacular garden plant except for the profusion of glochids. This prickly pear sheds its glochids with abandon and they are a menace to any garden. Weather true or not its glochids have the reputation of detaching and flying the wind. They are purported to blind animals, hence the name, blind prickly pear.