Opuntia zebrina

Opuntia zebrina
Opuntia zebrina

Small, Journal of the New York Botanical Garden 20: 35, 1919


What is Opuntia zebrina?

Opuntia zebrina is a medium-sized prickly pear cactus of the Florida Keys. It is named “zebrina” because it has spines that are banded yellow (tan) and dark brown.


O. zebrina grows to 1 m tall or less. Cladodes are oval or obovate and 10 to 20 cm long. Lower areoles have no spines and upper areoles are irregularly spined. 

Flowers are few and yellow, solitary. The fruit is obovoid and not constricted at the base, about 4 cm long. Seeds are 6-7 cm in diameter. 

O. zebrina has some similarities with O. dillenii, but the plants are smaller and more cold sensitive. Also, the banded spines are unique to O. zebrina, whereas O.  dillenii spines are generally solid yellow. Additionally, O. zebrina often has fewer spines than O. dillenii, sometimes having only 1 at  surface areoles and 2-3 on edges (see herbarium sample above). Moreover, fruit is not stipitate in O. zebrina. Areoles are raised as in O. dillenii. Perhaps O. zebrina is merely a variant of O. dillenii. Like many plants of the Florida Keys, O. zebrina is threatened by loss of habitat. Read the original description.

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