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Opuntia stricta (Erect Prickly Pear)

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Scientific Name

Opuntia stricta (Haw.) Haw.

Common Names

Coastal Prickly Pear, Common Pest Pear, Erect Prickly Pear, Pest Prickly Pear

Synonyms

Cactus chinensis, Cactus dillenii, Cactus indicus, Cactus opuntia, Cactus strictus, Consolea bahamana, Opuntia anahuacensis, Opuntia atrocapensis, Opuntia bahamana, Opuntia bentonii, Opuntia chinensis, Opuntia dillenii, Opuntia inermis, Opuntia macrantha, Opuntia magnifica, Opuntia melanosperma, Opuntia nitens, Opuntia subsphaerocarpa, Opuntia tunoidea, Opuntia zebrina, Pilocereus flavispinus

Scientific Classification

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

Description

Opuntia stricta is a shrubby, low-spreading to erect cactus, up 6.6 feet (2 m) tall, with fleshy, dull green to grey-green stem segments. The basal stem segments sometimes thicken and form a trunk. The upper segments are flattened, elliptic to obovate, up to 14 inches (35 cm) long, up to 8 inches (20 cm) wide and up to 0.8 inches (2 cm) thick. The areoles are scattered, spineless or with often 1 or more, yellowish, up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long spines and numerous short, yellow glochids. The solitary flowers are yellow to yellowish-orange and appear in spring and summer. They are up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) long and about the same in diameter. The edible fruits are purplish-red, egg-shaped, up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) long and up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) in diameter.

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °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, 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 dry soil and refrain from watering them until they begin to grow to avoid rotting them.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Opuntia.

Origin

Opuntia stricta is endemic to the subtropical and tropical coastal areas of the Americas and the Caribbean.

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