Opuntia tomentosa Salm-Dyck
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
Opuntia tomentosa is a tree-like cactus with a woody main stem and fleshy, dull green, much-branched stems consisting of a series of flattened segments. It grows up to 26 feet (8 m) tall. Stem segments are up to 14 inches (35 cm) long and 6.4 inches (16 cm) wide. They are velvety, with clusters of fine yellow bristles. The stem segments are usually spineless, but they occasionally bear 1 or group of 2 gray, up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long spines. The spines are more prominent on younger plants and tend to be absent from older stem segments. Flowers are bright orange, usually with reddish markings on the undersides of the outermost petals. They are up to 2.2 inches (5.5 cm) long and up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. The fleshy fruits are up to 2 inches (5 cm) long, 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.
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 Prickly Pears may need slightly different care. All are desert cacti that need lots of sun, light, and very little water. So 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.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Opuntia.
This species is endemic to Mexico.
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