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Yavapai County Native & Naturalized Plants

Opuntia phaeacantha - brown-spine prickly pear

Synonyms: Opuntia superbospina, Opuntia mojavensis, Opuntia arizonica, Opuntia dulcis, Opuntia canada
Other Common Names: tulip prickly pear
Plant Form: Cacti

Family: Cactaceae

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Plant Description

Origin: Native
General Desc: Forms dense thickets. Can be an erect or wide spreading and trailing cactus to 15 feet in diameter. Can form low patches of flat joints.
Identification notes: Low growing clumps, joints widest above their middle and reddish brown or brown and white spines, 1 inch to 3 inches long and yellow flowers with red bases distinguish this from similar Opuntia sp.
Height: 5 feet     Width: 15 feet


Habitat Description: Sandy or rocky soils of flats, hills and valleys.
Plant Communities: Desert Scrub, Interior Chaparral, Semidesert Grasslands, Pinyon Juniper Woodland, Montane Conifer Forest, Disturbed Areas
Elevation: 1500 - 7500 feet


Color: Yellow, orange or reddish     Flowering Period: Apr - Jun
Description: Varies from 1 to 3 inches long and up to 3 inches wide. Flowers are showy with yellow color and red bases. Found on edges of flat pads.


Stem Color: Green to bluish-green     Number of Stems: Multiple     Stem Shape: Pads     Stems Segmented: Y     Stem Surface: Smooth
Stem Description: Stems are circular or oblong to 16 inches long and 9 inches wide in upright or sprawling chains. Can have 3 or more joints standing on edge. Joints are widest above their middle. Can have reddish purple color in winter. Can be grayish with age.

Areoles (structures unique to cacti, found on the stems, areas from which spines, flowers and fruits emerge)

Areole Description: Flower areoles are found along pad edges. Spine areoles can be single or 2 or 4 together.
Spine Color: Reddish-brown or brown and white     Spines Hooked: N    
Spine Description: Spines are to 3 inches long and can be either flattened, curved or straight and sometimes pointing downward.

Glochids: Y   (Glochids are minute barbed hairs or bristles)
Glochid Description: Glochids are brown or yellowish and dense along edge of areoles.


Fruit Color: Red to purplish   
Fruit Notes: Fruit is narrow-based and cylindrical to 3 inches long and 1-1/2 inch in diameter. Seeds are tan and nearly circular.

  Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Version 7.0  
Last Updated: May 10, 2017  
Content Questions/Comments: Email Jeff Schalau  
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