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Opuntia sulphurea (Prickly Pear Cactus)

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Scientific Name

Opuntia sulphurea Gillies ex Salm-Dyck

Common Names

Prickly Pear Cactus

Synonyms

Opuntia pampeana, Opuntia vulpina

Scientific Classification

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

Description

Opuntia sulphurea is a low and spreading or erect shrub, forming clumps up to 16 inches (40 cm) tall and up to 6.6 feet (2 m) in diameter. The joints are oblong to obovate, up to 12 inches (30 cm), up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) cm wide, thick, strongly tuberculate, glabrous, usually green but sometimes purplish. The spines are very dense and stiff, up to 0.4 inches (1 cm) long, whitish at first, but somewhat yellowish, brownish to red in age. The areoles are small, white, borne on protuberances. The glochids are yellowish red to brown. The flowers are yellow and up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long.

Photo via davesgarden.com

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zone 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °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 – particularly the American Southwest – these plants can generally be planted outside, left alone, and enjoyed.

Though Opuntia will grow just fine in a garden, 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 prickly pear 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… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Opuntia

Origin

Native to Argentina, ChileBoliviaParaguay, and Uruguay.

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