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Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear)


Scientific Name

Opuntia humifusa (Raf.) Raf.

Common Names

Devil's Tongue, Eastern Prickly Pear, Low Prickly Pear, Creeping Prickly Pear, Creeping Pear, Large-Flower Prickly Pear, Smooth Prickly Pear, Indian Fig


Cactus humifusus (basionym), Opuntia humifusa var. humifusa, Opuntia humifusa subsp. humifusa, Opuntia compressa, Opuntia vulgaris

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Opuntioideae
Tribe: Opuntieae
Genus: Opuntia


Opuntia humifusa is a low-growing cactus with flattened green stems formed of segments. Barbed bristles are found around the surfaces of the segments, and longer spines are sometimes present. Flowers are waxy, yellow to gold, sometimes with red centers. They are up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) in diameter and appear along the margins of mature segments in late spring. The edible red fruits are up to 2 inches (5 cm) long. As the fruits mature, they change color from green to red and often remain on the cactus until the following spring.

Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear)

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USDA hardiness zones 4b to 10b: from −25 °F (−31.7 °C) to 40 °F (+4.4 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Though the large variety of species within the Opuntia genus means different types of Prickly Pears may need slightly different care. All are desert cacti that need lots of sun, lots of light, and very little water. If you live in a hot, arid area, these plants can generally be planted outside, left alone, and enjoyed.

These cacti will grow just fine in a garden, but they can be grown in pots as well. To repot, ensure the soil is dry, remove the pot and knock away the old soil. After treating any cuts with fungicide, place the cactus in a new pot and backfill it with potting soil. As with a new cutting, make sure not to water a newly repotting Prickly Pear for a brief period to avoid rotting its roots.

Opuntia can propagate either by cuttings or by seed. To propagate by cuttings, sever pads from a plant and let them dry so that the wounds heal. Then place the plants in dry soil and refrain from watering them until they begin to grow to avoid rotting them. See more at How to Grow and Care for Opuntia.


Opuntia humifusa ranges from the more arid areas of Montana southward to New Mexico scrublands and eastward to the lower Great Lakes and the eastern seaboard from the Florida Keys to coastal Connecticut and Long Island, NY.


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