Multiple references were consulted during the construction of this prickly pear website–Opuntia Web. There are countless confusing references about cacti in general and opuntias in particular; there are often many names that refer to the same species of cactus. We worked our way through them to decide Opuntia names. Generally, we chose names that are associated with good descriptions or which are names of longstanding–or both. The names we chose provide a good starting place for the reader if they want to look up more names. For instance, O. humifusa was called O. opuntia by Britton and Rose, but this name fell into disuse. Later, it was called O. compressa, and this name fell into disuse. At one time in the early 1800s O. humifusa was known as Cactus humifusus. Perhaps any of these names could be used, but we chose O. humifusa.
An important part of a plant name is person who named it, and the journal and year it was published. For instance, the long-form name of O. humifusa is “Opuntia humifusa (Rafinesque) Rafinesque, Flora Medica (or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America) 2: 247, 1830.” This long name tells you that the author was Constantine Samuel Rafinesque. The name was published in Flora Media, volume 2 on page 247 in 1830. You are free to look up the prickly pear name information. But we have done that with each species and provide a copy (original description) for each species.
Names make a difference. If you use O. humifusa, you will never find the writings about Cactus humifusus and you will miss important information. We present some of those references here so you can consult them for yourselves. You may decide to choose a name that we passed over, but these resources will help you find other names.
On the other hand, for just gardening and enjoying plants, names are not so terribly important. O. humifusa is also known as O. compressa and most Opuntia growers know they are the same plant. Sometimes people describe a plant with a name such as, “the cactus from my grandmother that has yellow flowers.” This is fine for informal purposes.
If you want more information, consult the resources listed here. We also hope you will write to us if you have questions about names or for any other reason. Perhaps you will have a suggestion about a better name choice than we made.
See in this Website
A Dictionary of Botany, Little, RJ and Jones, EU, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co, 1983
Biodiversity Heritage Library, Website
Cacti & Other Succulents of Arizona (Field Guide to), Breslin, P et al, Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society, 2015
Cacti of Texas and Neighboring States, Weniger D, University of Texas Press, second ed, 1988
Cacti of the Southwest, Del Weniger, University of Texas Press, 1978
Cacti of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas, Powell MA and Weedin JF, Texas Tech University Press, 2004
Cacti, Agaves, and Yuccas of California and Nevada, Ingram, S, Cachuma Press, 2008
Cacti, Biology and Uses, Park S Nobel (ed), 2002, University of California Press
Cactus and Succulent Digital Library, Website
Chromosome Counts Database, Website
Field Guide to Cacti & Other Succulents of Arizona, Breslin et al., 2015
Flora of North America, Website
Index to Plant Chromosome Numbers, Website
Opuntia at American Southwest, Website
Opuntia at Encyclopedia Britannica. Website
Opuntia at Encyclopedia of Life, Website
Opuntia at Gardenia Net, Website
Opuntia, at Wikipedia, Website
Pricklypears commonly found in the United States and northern Mexico, Green, C with Ferguson, D, 2012
The Cactaceae: descriptions and illustrations of plants of the cactus family, NL Britton and NJ Rose, Carnegie Institution of Washington, volume 1, 1919
The Cactaceae: descriptions and illustrations of plants of the cactus family, NL Britton and NJ Rose, Carnegie Institution of Washington, volume 2, 1920
The Cactaceae: descriptions and illustrations of plants of the cactus family, NL Britton and NJ Rose, Carnegie Institution of Washington, volume 3, 1922
The Cactaceae: descriptions and illustrations of plants of the cactus family, NL Britton and NJ Rose, Carnegie Institution of Washington, volume 4, 1923
The Cacti of the United States and Canada, Benson L, Stanford University Press, 1982
The Cactus Family, Anderson, E, Timber Press, 2001
The New Cactus Lexicon (text volume), Hunt with others, 2006
The Plant List, Website
The Succulent Plant Page, Website
Trees, Shrubs & Cacti of South Texas, Everitt, JH and Drawe, DL, Texas Tech University Press, 1993
…and many other sources
The Cactaceae: Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family was provided courtesy of the Cactus and Succulent Digital Library The PDF copy that we use has been pass through optical character recognition and manually checked. Our thanks to the CSDL.