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Rabbit Ears Cactus Opuntia

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
oh-POON-tee-ah
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Prickly Pear is in the cacti family and contains over 100 species that are native to North and South America. They are erect or spreading cacti, ranging from small low-growing shrubs to treelike specimens reaching 16 feet or more in height. Some are grown as houseplants. They have flat paddle-shaped stem segments called cladodes that grow one on top of the other. They all have spines in the areoles but some have additional large spines. The flowers are showy in yellow, pink, or orange colors. The fruits are generally fleshy, orange, and spiny but sometimes dry.

The pads readily root to form new plants and in some parts of the world, they have become invasive. It is resistant to damage by deer and is highly salt tolerant. Generally speaking, they need well-drained soil (preferably a cactus mix) and plenty of sunshine. In order to flower, they need high light levels and cooler winter temperatures. Use in containers, rock gardens, or coastal and desert areas. 

 

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

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Water Feature Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Crevice Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Souto Sun Garden Crevice Garden, Guilford County Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Parking Lot Berms Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Crevice Garden Crevice Garden, Guilford County Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Crevice Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Parking Lot Berms Crevice Garden, Guilford County Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Parking Lot Berms
Cultivars / Varieties:
O. aurea, O. drummondii, O. humifusa, O. macrocentra, O. macrorhiza, O. mesacantha, O. microdasys, O. phaeacantha, O. phaeacantha 'Tahiti Sunrise'
Tags:
#houseplant#drought tolerant#piedmont#salt tolerant#deer resistant#spines#edible fruits#rock gardens#edible garden#edible stems#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#guilford crevice garden#container plants#coastal plant#hsc#hsc-c
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
O. aurea, O. drummondii, O. humifusa, O. macrocentra, O. macrorhiza, O. mesacantha, O. microdasys, O. phaeacantha, O. phaeacantha 'Tahiti Sunrise'
Tags:
#houseplant#drought tolerant#piedmont#salt tolerant#deer resistant#spines#edible fruits#rock gardens#edible garden#edible stems#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#guilford crevice garden#container plants#coastal plant#hsc#hsc-c
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Opuntia
    Family:
    Cactaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used in traditional medicine
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Americas
    Distribution:
    USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , KS , MO , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , OK , OR , SD , TX , UT , WA , WY Canada: AB , BC , SK
    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:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Succulent
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Very Dry
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Fruit Description:
    Fleshy or dry, depending on the species
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Pink
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Funnel
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Variously colored, with many petals.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Insignificant
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are modified into large spines that cover the large, fleshy stems in clusters.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Flattened stems (cladodes, often called pads) that resemble thick leaves or shrublike with cylindric stems. Glochids (minute bristle-like, barbed hairs in clusters) on the stems.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Container
    Houseplants
    Naturalized Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Edible Garden
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Salt
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Painful skin and eye irritation following contact due to a splinter-like small infection from glochids lodged in the skin; internal effects in diabetics from ingestion.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Unknown; possibly mechanical effect of glochids.
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Stems