Opuntia basilaris Engelm. & Bigelow
Bakersfield Beavertail Cactus, Beavertail Cactus, Beavertail Prickly Pear, Branching Beavertail Cactus, Elongated Beavertail Cactus, Kern Beavertail Cactus, Short-joint Beavertail Cactus, Woodbury Beavertail Cactus
Opuntia basilaris var. whitneyana, Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris
Opuntia basilaris is a shrubby cactus with sprawling to ascending or erect stems composed of flattened, nearly smooth segmented joints (pads) with areoles containing numerous glochids and no spines. It can grow up to 16 inches (40 cm) tall and branch from the base. The stem segments are blue-green to yellow-green, sometimes tinged maroon-purple. They are thick, fleshy, spatulate to broadly obovate or subcircular, and can reach up to 14 inches (35 cm) in length and up to 6.4 inches (16 cm) in width. The glochids are yellow to red-brown or dark brown.
The flowers are pink to magenta with yellowish anthers, measure up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) long and 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, and appear on the upper terminal margins of pads from spring to early summer. The edible fruits are spherical to obovate, about 1.6 inches (4 cm) in diameter, tan and dry at maturity, and contain yellowish to tan seeds.
Opuntia basilaris is native to the southwestern United States (California, Nevada, Arizona) and northwest Mexico (Baja California and Sonora). It occurs in the Sonoran and the Mojave Desert at elevations below 3,000 feet (915 m).
The specific epithet "basilaris (bas-il-LAIR-iss)" means "basilar, basal, of or located at a base of something" and refers to the new stem segments of this species that grow mainly from the base of older ones.
How to Grow and Care for Opuntia basilaris
Light: O. basilaris thrives in full sun. Indoors, a window with access to sunlight for 6 hours a day works best. Some shade during midday and afternoon can prevent sunburn in very hot climates.
Soil: This cactus requires a soil mix that drains well. It prefers sandy or gravelly soil, but it can tolerate other soil types as long as there is good drainage. Use a commercial cactus potting mix, or create your own.
Temperature: Extremely tolerant of high temperatures, this cactus prefers cooler temperatures in winter. O. basilaris can withstand temperatures as low as 10 °F (-12.2 °C). USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8a to 10b, 10 to 40 °F (-12.2 to 4.4 °C).
Watering: From spring to fall, water moderately and let the soil dry out completely before watering again. In most areas, rainfall will be enough for established plants. For a potted plant, never let the container sit in water. Suspend watering in winter.
Fertilizing: O. basilaris does not need fertilizer when planted in the ground. However, in a container, the plant will benefit from fertilization during the growing season. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer. Suspend feeding during the winter when the plant goes dormant.
Repotting: Repot only when your O. basilaris becomes potbound or is too large and unstable in its container. Choose a slightly larger container with drainage holes at the bottom. The best time for repotting is late winter or early spring.
Propagation: You can propagate O. basilaris by stem-cuttings cuttings (pads) or seeds. Starting this cactus from seeds is a slow process, and it may take 3 to 4 years before you have a substantial plant. Propagation by pads is the easiest method and yields faster results. The best time to take cuttings is early summer. Sow the seeds in late spring.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Opuntia.
Toxicity of Opuntia basilaris
O. basilaris is not toxic to humans or pets. However, keep it away from pets and children as it has glochids that may cause moderate skin irritation.
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