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Opuntia monacantha (Drooping Prickly Pear)


Scientific Name

Opuntia monacantha (Willd.) Haw.

Common Names

Drooping Prickly Pear, Drooping Tree Pear, Cochineal Prickly Pear, Spreading Prickly Pear, Barbary Fig


Cactus monacanthos

The name Opuntia vulgaris, which is a synonym of Opuntia ficus-indica, has been misapplied to this species in Australia.

Scientific Classification

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


Opuntia monacantha is a fast growing, shrubby or tree-like cactus up to 20 feet (6 m) tall, with a short trunk up to 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter. The stem segments are oblong to obovate, tapered towards the base, glossy green, with an irregular margin, up to 12 inches (30 cm) long and up to 5 inches (12.5 cm) wide. The spines (1 or 2) are slender, unequal, brown and grey in color and up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long. The flowers are yellow to deep orange-brown, with reddish outer perianth-segments, up to 3 inches (4.5 cm) long and up to 4 inches (10 cm) wide. The fruit are pear-shaped, reddish-purple, up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and up to 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 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, bu they can be grown in pots as well. To repot, ensure the soil is dry, then 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 a 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


Native to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay and is naturalized in Australia and South Africa.

Subspecies, Varieties, Forms, Cultivars and Hybrids


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