The Main Plant entry for Prickly Pears (Opuntia)

This database entry exists to show plant data and photos that apply generically to all Prickly Pears.

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Flowers: Showy
Suitable Locations: Xeriscapic
Uses: Will Naturalize
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Drought tolerant
Propagation: Seeds: Needs specific temperature: 68-86 degrees
Start indoors
Can handle transplanting
Other info: Seeds may be extremely slow to germinate
Propagation: Other methods: Cuttings: Stem
Other: Individual pads form new plants; they must dry and callous for 10 days before planting
Containers: Needs excellent drainage in pots
Miscellaneous: Tolerates poor soil

Common names
  • Prickly Pear

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  • Posted by Baja_Costero (Baja California - Zone 11b) on Feb 14, 2022 10:43 PM concerning plant:
    This diverse genus of cacti with spiny, paddle-shaped stems includes some of the most widespread and common cacti on the planet. Its natural range is much of the Americas, from Canada to northern Patagonia, plus the Caribbean and the Galapagos. It is cultivated in much of the world, especially dry areas without much frost. Prickly pears tend to be invasive in permissive climates (like much of Australia) and some plants may be prohibited there.

    Prickly pears are typically shrubs or trees, some with real trunks. They are jointed, with pads growing on pads, and typically feature both spines (sharp, penetrating, sometimes dangerous) and glochids (a sort of miniature stealth spine that embeds itself in skin and is difficult to remove). They flower along the edges of the pads and mostly produce fleshy fruit with large seeds.

    Some of the smaller ones make good container plants but mostly the Opuntias do better in the ground. They are generally sun loving plants, tolerant of drought, and especially tolerant of neglect in the landscape. Their tolerance of low temperatures can be predicted by the territory they occupy in nature, but it may range from poor to quite good, depending on the species. Set the ones with dangerous spines back from traffic of humans and pets, and prune regularly to enforce size or shape constraints. Even so-called spineless prickly pears sometimes make rudimentary spines, so do not assume this trait will be reliable.

    Both the stems (especially baby stems, especially ficus-indica) and the fruit (especially certain varieties) are used as food. The stems are used by ranchers as a ready source of water for livestock in times of drought.

    This plant has a deep and long history in the ethnobotany of the Americas and particularly in Mexico, which is home to many species. A prickly pear is prominently featured on the Mexican flag, holding up an eagle with a serpent in its mouth. These plants are called nopales in Mexico (singular = nopal) and their fruits are called tunas. The most common preparations are baby pads sliced into strips and grilled; and agua de tuna (often with lime) which is fruit pulp in water minus the seeds (if you're lucky). The fruit of some prickly pears is often referred to as xoconostle (both that word and nopal are derived from the Nahuatl).

    The flattened stems of Opuntia are distinct from the round stems of Cylindropuntia, Pereskiopsis, Tephrocactus, etc. About 15 genera comprise the subfamily. These other genera were mostly split from Opuntia in 1998, so older publications may use different names.
  • Posted by Marilyn (Kentucky - Zone 6a) on May 20, 2013 11:56 PM concerning plant:
    "Opuntia, also known as nopales or paddle cactus, is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae.

    Currently, only prickly pears are included in this genus of about 200 species distributed throughout most of the Americas.

    Like all true cactus species, prickly pears are native only to the Western hemisphere; however, they have been introduced to other parts of the globe. Prickly pear species are found in abundance in Mexico, especially in the central and western regions. They are also found in the Western United States, in arid regions in the Northwest, throughout the mid and lower elevations of the Rocky Mountains such as in Colorado, where species such as Opuntia phaeacantha, Opuntia polyacantha and others become dominant, and especially in the desert Southwest. Prickly pears are also the only types of cactus found to grow natively far east of the Great Plains states; O. humifusa is widespread throughout southern New England and Long Island, where it can be found in Northport, as well as throughout the northern Great Lakes states and southern Ontario, Canada. O. humifusa is also a prominent feature of the flora at Illinois Beach State Park, in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, north of Chicago, and of Indiana Dunes State Park southeast of Chicago."

    Taken from wikipedia's page at:

Plant Events from our members
bouncyshamrocks On June 9, 2018 Obtained plant
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Discussion Threads about this plant
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
ID question by Baja_Costero Mar 17, 2017 11:23 AM 12
Opuntia ficus indica by skopjecollection Apr 16, 2020 11:56 PM 3

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