Opuntia chlorotica santa-rita

Griffiths & Hare, New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 60: 64, 1906

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Opuntia chlorotica santa-rita
Opuntia chlorotica santa-rita

Original Description

What is Opuntia chlorotica santa-rita?

Opuntia chlorotica santa-rita is one of three varieties of the prickly pear cactus in the Opuntia chlorotica complex. The varieties are santa-rita, gosseliniana, and chlorotica (Ferguson 1988). Santa-rita is the most handsome. The three varieties blend into each other over their range where they overlap. 


O. chlorotica santa-rita is an upright, open-branching cactus to 1.5 m with a distinct trunk (sometimes two trunks) up to 15 cm across. The cladodes are suborbicular, orbicular, or rarely obovate or even pointed. Cladodes are about 12 to 18 cm across with a bluish or purplish cast. Some individuals are strongly colored. Spines are absent in this Opuntia, or there may be 1(3) per in a few areoles at the tips of the cladodes. If spines are present they are yellow to reddish-brown or sometimes darker, and 2-3 cm long. 

Britton and Rose described the flowers of this Opuntia as very handsome, deep yellow, and 6 to 9 cm across. The filaments and style are white, and the stigma is white or yellow.  The fruit is oval and depressed at the apex; it is purple outwardly and greenish within and pleasant to taste. 

O. chlorotica santa-rita is diploid.

Other Details

Britton and Rose reported that the type locality of this Opuntia is the Celero Mts [Salero Mt?] of AZ. It was also described from the Santa Rita Mountains. Britton and Rose also reported that “All gradations of spine characters may be found between this and the typical, very spiny Opuntia chlorotica.”

O. chlorotica santa-rita is a sumptuous and large garden plant. Its coloration alone makes it valuable, and the large, colorful flowers are a bonus. Cold-hardiness seems likely to be moderate (USDA climate zone 6?). 

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