Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis (Griffiths) B.D.Parfitt & Pinkava
Cow's Tongue Cactus, Cow Tongue Prickly Pear
Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis is a shrubby or tree-like cactus with lance-shaped stem segments (pads) that become very elongated and often sickle-shaped with age. These pads can grow up to 4 feet (1.2 m) long and 7 inches (17.5 cm) wide. The spines are absent or up to 3 irregularly arranged at most distal areoles. They are up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) long, yellow when young, and darken to blackish as they age.
During spring, the cactus produces large flowers, usually yellow or sometimes orange to pink or red. The flowers are up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) long, including the floral cup, and 1.6 inches (4 cm) in diameter. The fruits are almost spineless, red to deep purple, and contain reddish-purple pulp and tan to grayish seeds. They are egg- to barrel-shaped, up to 3.6 inches (9 cm) long and 1.6 inches (4 cm) in diameter.
The varietal epithet "linguiformis (lin-GWEE-form-iss)" means "tongue-shaped" and refers to the elongated pads.
How to Grow and Care for Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis
Light: Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis thrives in full sun, but some shade during midday and afternoon can prevent sunburn in very hot climates. A window that receives sunlight 6 hours a day works best when grown indoors.
Soil: This cactus requires a soil mix that drains well. So, use a commercial cactus potting mix or create your own.
Temperature: Extremely tolerant of high temperatures, Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis prefers cooler temperatures in winter. It grows best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8a to 10b, with average minimum winter temperatures ranging from 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. If potted, never let the container sit in water. During the winter, suspend the watering.
Fertilizing: Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis 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 the cactus 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 Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis by stem segments or seeds. Using stem segments is the easiest method and yields faster results. For best results, take stem segments in early summer. Sow the seeds in late spring.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Opuntia.
Toxicity of Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis
Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis is not toxic to humans or pets. However, keep the plant away from pets and children as it has harmful spines and glochids that may cause skin irritation.
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