Opuntia monacantha (Willd.) Haw.
Drooping Prickly Pear, Drooping Tree Pear, Cochineal Prickly Pear, Spreading Prickly Pear, Barbary Fig
Opuntia vulgaris, a synonym of Opuntia ficus-indica, has been misapplied to this species in Australia.
Opuntia monacantha is a fast-growing shrubby or tree-like cactus with a short trunk and glossy green oblong to obovate stem segments with irregular margins and tapered towards the base. It grows up to 20 feet (6 m) tall. The trunk is up to 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter. Stem segments are 12 inches (30 cm) long and 5 inches (12.5 cm) wide. The spines (1 or 2) are slender, unequal, brown and grey, and up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long. Flowers are yellow to deep orange-brown, with reddish outer perianth-segments, up to 3 inches (4.5 cm) long and 4 inches (10 cm) across. The fruits are pear-shaped, reddish-purple, up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long, and 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.
USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Though the large variety of species within the Opuntia genus means different 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 also be grown in pots. 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.
This species is native to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay and is naturalized in Australia and South Africa.
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