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Opuntia species [Cactaceae]

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Scientific Name Opuntia azurea var. parva USDA PLANTS Symbol N/A
Common Name Big Bend Purplish Prickly Pear ITIS Taxonomic Serial No. N/A
Family Cactaceae (Cactus) SEINet
Reference
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Description Habitat: Desert habitats only in Big Bend area from 1900 to 3700 ft.
Plant: Many-branched, sprawling plant 1 to 3 ft high.
Pads & Spines: Pale blue-green to bluish-gray pads, upper obovate with tapered bases, lower nearly circular, 3 to 7-1/2 inches long and up to 5-1/2 inches wide; tinged with purple especially around areoles, becoming predominantly purple during droughts. Spines in upper portion and edges of pads, 1 to 3 spines per areole up to 4-3/4 inches long (sometimes longer), black to dark red with white tips.
Inflorescence: Young flowers yellow, becoming orange-red by late afternoon; up to 3-1/8 inches across; yellow filaments and anthers, cream-colored style with green stigma lobes.
Bloom Period: March to May.
Fruit: Pale red to purple, ovate to obovate, 5/8 to 1-1/8-inch long and up to 1 inch across.
References: "Cacti of Texas" by Powell, Weedin and Powell.
Notes: O. azurea not yet recognized at USDA Plants or ITIS. Previously identified here as O. macrocentra, however, according to the above reference that species does not exist in Brewster County and Big Bend.
BONAP Distribution Map
N/A
Texas Status:
Native
Endemic to Big Bend area, common throughout Brewster County
Scientific Name Opuntia dulcis (Opuntia engelmanni var. dulcis, Opuntia lindheimeri var. dulcis) USDA PLANTS Symbol OPEND
Common Name Sweet Prickly Pear ITIS Taxonomic Serial No. 538006
Family Cactaceae (Cactus) SEINet
Reference
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Description Habitat: Desert environments along the Rio Grande from Big Bend northwest to at least El Paso; 2200 to 3500 ft. elevation.
Plant: Summer: Sprawling plant up to 3 to 5 feet high.
Pads & Spines: Pads obovate to suborbicular, 6 to 7 inches long, 4 to 6 inches across; usually 2 spines per areole, about 1-1/4 inches long; lower portions light brown to nearly white above.
Inflorescence: Yellow flowers with pale or bright red center; 2 to 2-3/4 inches across; pale green to cream-colored or colorless filaments about 5/8-inch long, yellow anthers; colorless or pinkish style with light green stigma lobes.
Bloom Period: April to May.
Fruit: Smooth with a few areoles and no spines; obovate to inverse conical shape, reddish, about 2 inches long, 1 to 1-1/4 inches diameter.
References: "Cacti of Texas" by Powell, Weedin and Powell.
BONAP Distribution Map
N/A
Texas Status:
Native
Scientific Name Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii (Opuntia phaeacantha var. discata) USDA PLANTS Symbol OPENE
Common Name Engelmann's Prickly Pear, Cactus Apple ITIS Taxonomic Serial No. 913651
Family Cactaceae (Cactus) SEINet
Reference
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Description Habitat: Desert habitat; dry, sandy, rocky soils from 1000 to 6000 ft., primarily in southwest Texas west of the Pecos River.
Plant: Upright, spreading branches 3 to 5 feet high (higher in ideal growing conditions).
Pads & Spines: Pads obovate, broadly elliptic or orbicular, 8 to 12 inches long, 6 to 10 inches across; variable spines, chalky white, to tan and yellow shades or brownish, seldom rich canary yellow or shiny yellow, 1 to 2 inches long, usually 1 to 4 per areole (or 0 to 5).
Inflorescence: Yellow flowers without red center, becoming pale orange late in the day; occasionally orange veins on inner tepals; about 3 inches across; cream-colored to pale green filaments, yellow anthers; cream-colored style with green stigma lobes.
Bloom Period: April to July.
Fruit: Barrel- or oval-shaped, purple to dark reddish-purple, 2-1/4 to 3-1/4 inches long, 1-1/4 to 2 inches diameter.
References: "Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas" by Correll and Johnston, Opuntia Web and "Cacti of Texas" by Powell, Weedin and Powell.
BONAP Distribution Map

Texas Status:
Native
Scientific Name Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri (Opuntia lindheimeri) USDA PLANTS Symbol OPENL
Common Name Texas Prickly Pear ITIS Taxonomic Serial No. 195321
Family Cactaceae (Cactus) SEINet
Reference
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Description Habitat: Sandy, gravelly or rocky soils from 1000 to 1800 ft.
Plant: Large, sprawling plant 1-1/2 to 6 feet high and up to 15 feet across.
Pads & Spines: Pads obovate to orbicular, 6 to 12 inches long, 4-3/4 to 10 inches across; 1 to 5 spines per areole, almost always shiny yellow or whitish-yellow, sometimes with red or reddish-brown bases, aging blackish, 1-1/4 to 3 inches long.
Inflorescence: Yellow flowers without red center, becoming orange or reddish late in the day and early second day; occasionally orange veins on inner tepals; 2 to 3-1/4 inches across; cream-colored filaments and anthers; greenish-yellow to white style with dark green stigma lobes.
Bloom Period: April to June.
Fruit: Pear-shaped, purple to dark reddish-purple, 1-1/4 to 2-3/4 inches long, 1 to 1-1/2 inches diameter.
References: "Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas" by Correll and Johnston, Opuntia Web, "Cacti of Texas" by Powell, Weedin and Powell and SEINet.
BONAP Distribution Map


Opuntia lindheimeri
Texas Status:
Native
Scientific Name Opuntia macrorhiza USDA PLANTS Symbol OPMA2
Common Name Plains Prickly Pear, Twist-spine Prickly Pear ITIS Taxonomic Serial No. 19718
Family Cactaceae (Cactus) SEINet
Reference
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Description Habitat: Sand or limestone, rocky, gravelly soils in open areas.
Plant: Low-growing, sprawling, clump forming plant usually less than 16 inches, or one or two pad segments, tall; clumps 20 inches to 6-1/2 feet across.
Pads & Spines: Pads circular to obovate, 3 to 6 inches long or wide; becoming wrinkled; 5 to 8 areoles per diagonal row across the middle; 1 to 3 spines in upper areoles, whitish with darker bases (yellowish to brownish), 1-1/2 to 2-1/4 inches long, straight or slightly curved, mostly pointing downward; dense tufts of pale yellow to red-brown glochids.
Inflorescence: Yellow flowers, usually with red centers, 2 to 2-1/2 inches across, often in groups along the upper edge of the pads; pale yellow filaments and yellow anthers; white style and cream to yellowish stigma lobes.
Bloom Period: May and June.
Fruit: Flesh, smooth, green to yellowish to dull red; elongated 1 to 1-1/2 inches long and 5/8 to 1-1/8 inches in diameter; 16 to 28 areoles.
References: "Cacti of Texas" by Powell, Weedin and Powell, "Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas" by Correll and Johnston and SEINet.
BONAP Distribution Map

Texas Status:
Native
Scientific Name Opuntia mackensenii var. mackensenii USDA PLANTS Symbol N/A
Common Name Mackensen's Prickly Pear ITIS Taxonomic Serial No. N/A
Family Cactaceae (Cactus) Opuntia Web
Reference
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Description Habitat: Among grasses in shrublands, rocky, limestone soils. Terrell, Val Verde, Cockett counties, Edwards Plateau north into the Panhandle, from 1000 to 3000 ft.
Plant: Many-branched, low-growing, sprawling plant 8 to 12 inches high and up to about 40 inches across; stems mostly prostrate, branches are somewhat ascending.
Pads & Spines: Pads pale green when young becoming darker green with age; obovate or nearly circular with tapered bases, 3 to 8 inches in length, often resting on edges; 2 to 5 spines per areole, 3/8 to 2-3/16 inches, usually white and may grade to brown or black at base. Glochids are brown. Areoles have spines over most of pad or in just the upper 2/3; upper areoles with 1 to 4 spines.
Inflorescence: Tepals are mostly or all yellow with some reddish tinge near base; 2-3/4 to 3-1/8 inches across; colorless filaments and light yellow anthers, white to cream-colored style with 7 to 9 pale green or cream-colored stigma lobes; style may extend beyond anthers. Opening by mid-day.
Bloom Period: March to May.
Fruit: Spineless and fleshy; purple, rose to pale red; obovate, 1-1/4 to 2-3/8 inches long.
References: "Cacti of Texas" by Powell, Weedin and Powell, Opuntia Web and The Cactaceae: Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family, Volume 1 by Britton and Rose.
BONAP Distribution Map
N/A
Texas Status:
Native
Scientific Name Opuntia phaeacantha USDA PLANTS Symbol OPPH
Common Name Tulip Prickly Pear ITIS Taxonomic Serial No. 19724
Family Cactaceae (Cactus) SEINet
Reference
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Description Habitat: Sandy to rocky soils in deserts, surrounding mountains and plains, 4000 to 7500 ft.
Plant: Erect or sprawling,low-growing, plant in clusters 12 to 24 inches high.
Pads & Spines: Green to dark green flattened pads, obovate to circular, 4 to 9 inches long and 2-3/4 to 8 inches wide; 8 or fewer spines per areole at most areoles above the bottom 1/4 of the pad; largest spines 1-1/4 to 2-3/4 inches long, usually bent downward but may point outward; completely grayish-white to tan or brownish/reddish near base; shorter spines less than 1 inch long and pointing downward.
Inflorescence: Showy flowers are 2 to 2-3/4 inches across; inner tepals are yellow with red basal portions (rarely entirely pink to red); upper portions of filaments are pale yellow to white and the anthers are yellow; the style white and the stigma lobes are green to yellow-green. Opening by mid-day.
Bloom Period: May and June.
Fruit: Fleshy, dark red to purple on the outside, spineless, obovate to barrel-shaped, 1-1/4 to 2 inches long and 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches wide..
References: "Cacti of Texas" by Powell, Weedin and Powell, American Southwest and SEINet.
BONAP Distribution Map

Texas Status:
Native
Scientific Name Opuntia rufida USDA PLANTS Symbol OPRU3
Common Name Blind Prickly Pear ITIS Taxonomic Serial No. 19731
Family Cactaceae (Cactus) SEINet
Reference
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Description Habitat: Desert habitats; limestone and igneous soils and rocks on flats, hillsides, canyons; from 1800 to 4000 ft.
Plant: Erect shrub 2 to 5 feet high, multiple branches.
Pads & Spines: Circular, obovate or elliptic, gray-green pads 3 to 10 inches across; with many spineless areoles; areoles have white to gray hairs and conspicuous reddish-brown glochids.
Inflorescence: Yellow flowers becoming apricot to orange later in the day; 1-3/4 to 3 inches across; white filaments, yellow to cream-colored anthers; colorless to green style with dark green stigma lobes.
Bloom Period: April and May.
Fruit: Ovoid-shaped, greenish-red, 3/4 to 1 inch across; spineless.
References: "Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas" by Correll and Johnston, "Cacti of Texas" by Powell, Weedin and Powell and SEINet.
Note: According to BONAP and "Cacti of Texas" this plant exists only in the Big Bend area. However, the plants below from Inks Lake in Burnet County appear to have all of the characteristics of O. rufida, and there is no other spinless prickly pear except cultivars and this plant does not appear similar.
BONAP Distribution Map

Texas Status:
Native
Endemic to Big Bend area along the Rio Grande
Scientific Name Opuntia spinosibacca (Opuntia X spinosibacca) USDA PLANTS Symbol OPSP7
Common Name Spiny-fruit Prickly Pear ITIS Taxonomic Serial No. 195335
Family Cactaceae (Cactus) Flora of North America Ref. Click Here
Description Habitat: Hot, dry limestone soils of slopes and canyons of eastern portion of Big Bend National Park, 1600 to 2300 ft.
Plant: Upright, compact plants 3 to 5 feet tall.
Pads & Spines: Light green to yellowish green pads 4 to 8 inches long and up to 6 inches wide; often purple near areoles. Spines white with red base, becoming dark red-brown with pale tips, aging gray, 3/4 to 2-3/4 inches long; upper areoles with 4 to 8, lower with one or more.
Inflorescence: Yellow flowers with red centers, 2 to 2-3/4 inches across; pale green to cream-colored filaments, anthers pale yellow, style white to pinkish, stigma lobes pale green to cream-yellow.
Bloom Period: March to May.
Fruit: Ovoid to obconic, greenish-yellow becoming tan to yellowish or reddish; 1 to 1-3/4 inches long, 1/2 to 1 inch across; many spines mostly around the rim, reddish brown and 1-inch long.
References: “Cacti of Texas” by Powell, Weedin and Powell and Flora of North America.
Notes: Previously treated as O. X spinosibacca, a hybrid of O. aureispina and O. phaeacantha.
BONAP Distribution Map


Opuntia X spinosibaca
Texas Status:
Native
Endemic to small region along eastern edge of Big Bend National Park



© Tom Lebsack 2022