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Opuntia tomentosa (Velvet Tree Pear)


Scientific Name

Opuntia tomentosa Salm-Dyck

Common Names

Velvet Tree Pear, Velvety Tree Pear, Velvet Opuntia, Tree Pear, Woollyjoint Prickly Pear, Prickly Pear


Opuntia hernandezii, Opuntia icterica, Opuntia jaliscana, Opuntia macdougaliana, Opuntia oblongata, Opuntia rileyi, Opuntia spraguei, Opuntia tomentella, Opuntia velutina var. macdougaliana

Scientific Classification

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


Opuntia tomentosa is an upright, tree-like cactus, up to 26 feet (8 m) tall, with a single, woody main stem at its base. Its stems are fleshy, dull green, much-branched, and consist of a series of flattened segments. These stem segments are up to 14 inches (35 cm) long and up to 6.4 inches (16 cm) wide. They are velvety, with clusters of fine yellow bristles. The stem segments are usually spineless, but they may occasionally bear groups of 1 or 2 grey spines up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. The spines are more prominent on younger plants and tend to be absent from older stem segments. The flowers are up to 2.2 inches (5.5 cm) long and up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, bright orange, and usually with reddish markings on the undersides of the outermost petals. The fleshy fruits are up to 2 inches (5 cm) long and up to 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) in diameter, green, but turn dull red or purplish-red as they mature. They are eaten raw or made into jellies and jams.

Opuntia tomentosa (Velvet Tree Pear)

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USDA hardiness zones 8b to 10b: from 15 °F (−9.4 °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.


Opuntia tomentosa is endemic to Mexico.


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