Opuntia covillei

Opuntia covillei
Opuntia covillei

Britton and Rose, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 50: 532, 1908

Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Photograph (Britton and Rose, 1919); PaintingDrawing (JJ Thornber; The Fantastic Clan of the Cactus Family)

Original Description

What is O. covillei?

Opuntia covillei is a medium-sized, California prickly pear cactus that grows in angular shapes to 1 m across. The species is often found growing in impenetrable thickets made of plants 50-100 cm tall. 

Details

O. covillei cladodes are pale green and 9 to 20(25) cm long, and the areoles are 2-4 cm apart. Most areoles have 2-5(7) white-brown or brown spines. Spines are slender, and the the longest spine may be 5-7 cm long. Spines are brownish or white-brown. This Opuntia is notable for its overall spiny appearance.  

The bright yellow flowers are large for a prickly pear of this size. Though yellow, the flowers my be tinged with green inside. The anthers are yellow, the style is pale, and the stigma is green. The ovary on this Opuntia is 4 to 5 cm long with relatively few areoles that are mostly spineless. However, some fruits may have a few short spines.  The fruit is mildly tuberculate, relatively long, and red. Seeds are about 5 mm in diameter. 

Ploidy is unknown.

Other Details

Unlike many California opuntias, O. covillei grows in inland valleys, and it is not restricted to the coastal areas. It grows at the base of Mt. San Bernardino, Mt. Baldy, Mt. San Gorgonio and into the desert foothills near Banning. O. covillei may be synonymous with O. megacarpa, which was described around the same time. However, the name, O. covillei, has precedence. 

Like many Opuntia species of California, O. covillei is typically misidentified or even considered to be a hybrid of some sort. 

Opuntia oricola

Opuntia oricola
Opuntia oricola

Philbrick, Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.) 36(6): 163, 1964

Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium

Original Description

What is Opuntia oricola?

Opuntia oricola is a medium-sized, easy-to-recognize prickly pear cactus found in coastal California. 

Details

O. oriciola pads are 15 to 26 cm long and 12 to 19 cm wide, elliptic to circular. Spines are yellow, translucent, and narrow. Centrals may be twice as long as radials, and spines are present in essentially all areoles.

The flower is yellow but may have tinges of red or orange on outer tepals. The style is bright red with a bulbous base, the stigma lobes are yellow or golden. The fruit of this Opuntia is spherical or egg shaped with a deep umbilicus. Fruit is medium-red with many areoles that have copious, brown glochids 

O. oricola is triploid.

Other Notes

O. oricola is the one cactus that was called O. littoralis the most consistently (but incorrectly) until Philbrick fixed the problem by naming it O. oricola. Everything got confused when, at the same time, L Benson expanded the concept of O. littoralis to include other taxa (including O. oricola). However, O. oricola is nothing like O. littoralis.

This prickly pear cactus grows from Santa Barbara, California to Ensenada, Mexico, including the Channel Islands. It typically occurs with coastal sage vegetation in disturbed habitats on south-facing slopes at 150 m or less.

Opuntia occidentalis

Opuntia occidentalis
Opuntia occidentalis

Engelmann & J. M. Bigelow, Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 3: 291, 1856

Syntype; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium

Original Description

What is Opuntia occidentalis?

Opuntia occidentalis is a prickly pear cactus that occurs in southern California. Britton and Rose reported that the type locality is the “western slopes of the California Mountains,” between San Diego and Los Angeles. The cactus also occurs on the islands off the California coast.

Details

O. occidentalis is a large prickly pear (up to 1.2 m tall) with similarities to O. engelmannii.  It may form large single-species thickets. Cladodes are typically obovate, blue-green, 20 cm wide and up to 30 cm long, but they may be larger or smaller. Dark red-brown spines are typical, but they may be pale at the tips.

Flowers are yellow but may have reddish tints. Fruit is reddish-purple, occasionally green, and sweet. Seeds are larger than in the similar O. engelmannii.

O. occidentalis is hexaploid.

Opuntia littoralis

Opuntia littoralis
Opuntia littoralis

(Engelmann) Britton & Rose, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 50: 529, 1908

Lectotype; Syntype; Lectotype; Lectotype; Lectotype; Lectotype

Original Citation

What is Opuntia littoralis?

Opuntia littoralis is a California prickly pear cactus that was originally described as a variety of O. engelmannii, but the two species are not closely related.

Details

O. littoralis plants may be low and spreading, but they send branches upright to 1 m as well. The oblong or obicular cladodes are 12-15 cm across the shortest diameter. Areoles may be elevated. Spines are numerous and yellow or pale yellow and may be 1 cm long or longer. There are multiple pale spines over much of the pad surface creating a shaggy look.

The flowers are yellow and 8 to 12 cm across. The red fruit is may be nearly globular or can be oblong. Seeds are 4-5 mm in diameter.

Opuntia littoralis may be hexaploid.

Other Notes

O. littoralis is found “along and near” the coast of California, but Britton and Rose reported that a sample was collected at Elsinore, California. The type locality is “coast from Santa Barbara to San Diego, California”. 

Opuntia semispinosa

Opuntia semispinosa
Opuntia semispinosa

Griffiths, Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 43(2): 89, 1916

Holotype

Original Citation

What is Opuntia semispinosa?

Opuntia semispinosa is a coastal prickly pear cactus from southern California and Mexico that has been variously lumped into O. occidentalisO. littoralis, or even other opuntias of coastal California. We accept it as a stand-alone species.

Details

Plants my reach 1 or 1.4 m tall and 1 or 2 m wide. Originally the plants grew in great thickets, but land use eroded this habit and this opuntia now often grows singly or as a few individuals. This prickly pear can present as an untidy collection of branches and irregular cladodes because the branches are angular. Some plants are compact whereas others spread. Segments of this Opuntia may be oval or obovate and or even pointed at both ends (almost rhomboid). Spines are white, but larger centrals may darken to brown at the base. Larger spines are often angular and twisted. Interestingly, areoles can sometimes be wider than long, 5 mm wide and 6-8 mm wide.

Flowers are yellow but may have a tinge of orange. Filaments are yellowish or pale green and the style is red and large, up to 8 to 10 mm in diameter. The stigma is pale green. The outer sepals are often recurved in bud. The fruit is 35 × 50 mm and obovate with a flat umbilicus. The fruits of this prickly pear are spiny. 

Ploidy is unknown. 

Other Notes

O. semispinosa was initially collected at Santa Barbara, CA, San Pedro, CA, and near Tija Juana, Mexico. 

At one time there was much interest in the plant as a possible source of spineless Opuntia germplasm because some pads are spineless over part or all of the of the pad (hence “semi” spinosa), but this hope was not realized. O. semispinosa is not a prickly pear generally found in gardens due to its  large size. 

Opuntia vaseyi

 

Opuntia vaseyi
Opuntia vaseyi

(J.M. Coulter) Britton & Rose, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 50: 532, 1908

Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium (holotype, deposited as O. magenta); Lectotype (O. mesacantha vaseyi); Herbarium; Herbarium; Herbarium; Holotype (O. intricata); Isotype (O. intricata); 

Original Description

What is Opuntia vaseyi?

Opuntia vaseyi is a low, spreading, bushy prickly pear cactus found “along and near the coast of southern California.” It often forms thickets 25 to 40 cm tall. 

Details

Cladodes are elongate-obovate and generally narrow, but exceptions occur. The cladodes have relatively large areoles and 2-3(4) reddish-brown spines that may be deflexed. Spines may be 1.5 to 3 cm long. 

Most plants have pink-, red-, or magenta-colored flowers, but some plants have yellow flowers.  The pinkish or reddish flowers are a diagnostic feature of the plant in southern California. The fruit of this Opuntia is essentially spineless and about 5 cm long. 

O. vaseyi is hexaploid.

Other Notes

This cactus has variously been known by many names including: O. magenta, O. intricata, O. vaseyi var magenta, and O. rubiflora. It was even lumped into O. littoralis. When first described the taxon was named Opuntia mesacantha vaseyi.

Britton and Rose pointed out that the type locality of Arizona must be presumed to be wrong because the prickly pear is found only in Southern California.

Opuntia rugosa

Opuntia rugosa
Opuntia rugosa

Griffiths, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 27(6): 27, 1914

 Holotype; IsotypePainting

Original Description

What is Opuntia rugosa?

Opuntia rugosa is an uncommonly found prickly pear cactus that was reported from Pomona, California in the early 1900s and apparently never studied again. 

Details

O. rugosa is a low, semi-ascending, and spreading cactus to about 25 to 30 cm tall. It is a about the size of O. camanchica; however, it may have branches that try to grow vertically for a few years. Plants often appear yellowish-green from a distance. The spines are white or yellowish, but may darken towards the base. Areoles may have 1 to 3 centrals up to 4 to 5 cm long. Shorter subsidiary spines may be recurved. The areoles are raised and give the pads a bumpy (rugose) look.

The flowers are white with green or light green stigmas. The fruits are a little large for the size of the plant and the fruit is dark red-purple when ripe.

Ploidy is unknown. 

Other Notes

Grown alongside other California Opuntia species, the plants are distinct. The authors have observed this species limited numbers in the immediate area of Pomona, CA near the Puddingstone Reservoir from where it was originally described. Perhaps most of its range is covered in houses now because adjacent parts of California have been heavily developed.  Status reports and population studies may be warranted for this Opuntia, and it is possible the species is essentially extinct. The population observed at Puddingstone Reservoir was encountered in 1979 and observed over the years. However, plants were not observed during the last visit in 2008. 

Its existence may be unknown to many California botanists because they may consider it to be the same as O. littoralis, O. vaseyi, O. semispinosa, O. phaeacantha, or even a hybrid (due to L Benson’s treatment in The Cacti of the United States and Canada, 1983). Or it may be unknown simmply because it is seldom encountered. Regrettably, Benson treated many California opuntias as hybrids. Remarkably, he proposed that many populations of cacti were actually hybrids with O. ficus-indica as one parent.