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Opuntia humifusa

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
op-UN-shee-a hew-mih-FEW-suh
Description

Eastern prickly pear is in the Cactaceae (Cactus) family.  The prickly pears are considered an old group within the cactus family with about 150 species in Opuntia. It has the largest range of any cactus in the United States and can be found from New Mexico and Montana east to Florida and Massachusetts. It is also found in Ontario. Eastern prickly pear can form large colonies or occur as a few individuals in an area. In older botanical manuals, it is often listed as Opuntia compressa.

This species is a typical cactus with a photosynthetic stem that acts as a leaf. This stem also stores water. Because of special antifreeze chemicals in its cells, it can survive the freezing temperatures of the northern and middle states. The stems or pads as they are often called can be 2 to 7" long and 1.5 to 5" wide. Pads are jointed in a linear or branched fashion.

Flowers are produced at the ends of pads in early summer. They are usually yellow, but east of the Appalachian Mountains and on dunes, the center is often red to orange. The flesh of the reddish fruits is edible, but not usually very sweet.

This cactus grows in open, dry areas, often on calcareous rock or thin soils. It can be found in or on fencerows, roadsides, rocky glades, rock outcrops, cliffs, old quarries, dunes, and prairie. The roots need to be dry during winter to prevent rot, so well-drained sites are necessary.  This plant is highly salt tolerant.

Propagation: cuttings

 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Houseplants, Succulents, and Cacti", a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

More information on Opuntia.

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Tags:
#houseplant#salt tolerant#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#container plant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#houseplant#salt tolerant#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#container plant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Opuntia
    Species:
    humifus
    Family:
    Cactaceae
    Edibility:
    Ripe fruit edible raw or in jelly. Pads can be eaten raw or cooked and have a mucilaginous texture. Remove spines and glochids from pads and fruit before eating.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Succulent
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fruit Description:
    pulpy
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Showy
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Funnel
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are produced at the ends of pads in early summer. They are usually yellow, but east of the Appalachian Mountains and on dunes, the center is often red to orange. The flesh of the reddish fruits is edible, but not usually very sweet.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Hairs Present:
    No
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Description:
    The stems (or pads as they are often called) can be 2 to 7" long and 1.5 to 5" wide. Pads are jointed in a linear or branched fashion. Glochids (minute bristle-like, barbed hairs in clusters) dot the surface.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Salt
    Problems:
    Spines/Thorns