Small, Manual of the Southeastern Flora 1933, 910
Opuntia turbinata is a prickly pear cactus that occurs in colonies along the coasts of Georgia and Florida where it grows in sand dunes. The erect, much-branched plants are less than 1 m tall. The cladodes are obovate, oval, or nearly circular, 10-15 cm long, and thick. There are 1-5 pale- to bright-yellow spines at many areoles. Spines may be up to 2-3 cm long. The hypanthium of the flower is turbinate and the fruit is globose-turbinate. Flowers of this Opuntia are 4.5 to 5.5 cm wide. This cactus has been found in northeastern Nassau County, FL; Duval County, FL; and in coastal southeastern GA. Because this prickly pear is confined to a small geographical area, it is a candidate for consideration as a protected Opuntia species. Some botanists consider O. turbinata to be a morphotype of O. stricta, but we treat it as a distinct species herein. Read the original description.
Opuntia turbinata produces two types of growth: 1) horizontal-growing and soil-hugging cladodes that create a diffuse pattern, and 2) erect stems that arise from the horizontal stems. Over time the cladodes of the horizontal stems thicken and lignify extensively and may even become deeply buried in beach sand. The erect stems are composed of smaller cladodes and seldom reach a meter in height–often being 2-ft tall or less. Essentially all of the flowering occurs on the erect stems.
O. ammophila, which has been confused with O. turbinata, commonly has a discernible central trunk and does not grow along the ground.